Monday, December 19, 2005

Secret Postcards for Sale?

Secret Postcards for Sale?

Do you have any postcards from previous RCA Secrets sale you want to sell? If so why not advertise them on the RCA Secret yahoo group. I’ll also post any adverts up on this blog as well. Just send me the details. Who knows I may make you an offer for a postcard myself.

RCA Secret 2005

RCA Secret 2005

This year the college said that they would publish the cards on the internet (this had not been done in 2004). Also the other big difference was that the number of cards that could be purchased at the exhibition was reduced from 5 to 4. Initially I was disappointed about this change but then in retrospect thought that for the likes of me who is only prepared to queue for one night it might actually make my chances of getting my first choice cards even higher.

Lisa and I went to see the sale on Sunday but unfortunately with the kids in tow didn’t have a brilliant opportunity to look at the cards in depth. I did however, straight away, spot two cards by Susie Hamilton that I absolutely loved and they went right to the top of the list. Most ridiculously there were no less than 11 tents outside already, with 5 days to go before the sale.

Some notable absentees from the list of contributors. No Nick Park in particular. To make up for that there were some high profile new contributors who I had not been at the show before: David Bailey and Nan Goldin to name two. Also contributing this year were artists such as Paula Rego and Olafur Eliasson (contrary to some of the press coverage both had actually contributed to RCA Secret before).

Anyway after my initial viewing on Sunday I thought that I would be able to spend a good few hours looking at the cards on the internet to narrow down my choices. In the end the cards only appeared on the internet on the Wednesday evening which gave me precious little time to look at them with Lisa and go through and make out selections.

In light of that I determined to get to the queue earlier than I had ever got there before and duly arrived around 10am on the Thursday to wait for the Friday sale.

London was in the midst of a terrible cold snap of weather and therefore it was absolutely freezing. Despite my 5 layers and my superwarm North Face coat I was absolutely freezing as I stood outside and erected my tent (a new purchase from Ebay specifically for that sale). Once the tent was erected my mate Dan pitched up and installed his tent next to me. We then waited for the next person in the queue to turn up (John) and then went inside the exhibition.

For the next 6 hours I spent this happily browsing the cards and refining my selections. In the meantime more familiar faces turned up. Hugh More was there already having turned up even earlier than me at around 8am. John MacMahon was the next “regular” as he turned up around 3pm with his cardboard box and sleeping bag. Shortly after John turned up there was the most incredible storm which biting rain and strong winds. I retreated to my tent in order to protect it as I genuinely thought it would blow away.

Chris Jones was next turning up about 4ish and rushing round the exhibition adding to his list.

As usual we exchanged tips and had a laugh and a joke. John got out a bottle of vodka which was very warming in the harsh temperatures.

I went off with Dan about 7.30 to a local burger bar to get a burger and chips and could tell that he was flagging. After our burgers we returned to queue for more vodka and a spot of whisky just to take the cold off.

At about 10pm Dan announced that he was so cold and uncomfortable that he was going home. I can’t really blame him by that stage it was absolutely freezing.

I stayed and John MacMahon got his laptop out and showed us all the cards he had downloaded from the internet. About 12pm we turned in and tried to get some sleep. I was glad for my tent which kept out the worst of the cold and the spots of rain (luckily it was a most dry night). It seems that next year I won’t be able to use my tent as the RCA have banned tents due to some “unsanitary practices”. I have mixed feeling about this. I agree with the college that it has become silly that people are queuing for so long. When you see how some of them look after their 2 weeks camping on the streets I question the wisdom of them doing it for their own health. Also with people camping that long I can understand the local residents frustration. Nevertheless you have to hand it to these guys: Austin, Carlos, Peter etc. They are all great guys and they love contemporary art. They are what makes the RCA Secret exhibition what it is and without them it just wouldn’t be the same.

Anyway eventually after the coldest might yet we eventually started packing up our tents and formed an orderly queue. As usual there were a couple of queue bargers who were told in no uncertain terms that they should go to the back of the queue. I cannot for the life of me understand these people as they display the most incredible arrogance when challenged.

Anyway once the tickets were handed out I found out that I was 23 in the queue. Not only was I the furthest up the queue I had ever been but also with only 4 cards being sold to each person in front of me I reckoned I had a really good chance of getting my first choices.

Well in the end I didn’t quite get my first choices but I did the following:

Susie Hamilton (number 48) - my number 1 choice and favourite card. Pictured on the left.

Nigel Rolfe (number 2437) - a card I just really liked. I had no idea who it was by. I'd not heard of Nigel Rolfe before but apparently he is a visiting professor at the RCA.

Boyd and Evans – (number 2371) – I love the work by these two.

Eileen cooper (number 2396) - an Eileen cooper card without an animal on it in sight!

Marianne Levy's RCA Secret 2005

Royal College of Art Secret Postcards (30.11.05)
I rose at four am.In fact, I didn't. I couldn't. It turns out that I can't. But I rose at ten past four, which really wasn't bad. Then I pulled on all the warm clothing I'd laid out the night before (at this point I felt like I was going on a school trip) said goodbye to John, who, because he is odd, hadn't managed to go to sleep, and then ventured out into the cold. The idea was to arrive just before the first tubes started dropping people there at 5.45.The Cold. It was so very, very cold. I have a super long scarf which I never wear because I look like a mollycoddled six year old in it. But on that chilly Friday, the scarf was my best friend.

I night bussed down to Kensington, and found the queue. It didn't look too bad, just the tents I'd seen a few days before, and the odd huddled person. Then I followed it round the corner and Oh! Oh! there were lots of people. I broke into a small, embarrased trot and took my place. It was dark. It was cold. It was 5.20am.I later found out I was somewhere between 94 and 102 in the queue (two different numbers given to me by RCA staff). A minute or two later a bloke called Jim from Guildford turned up, and then a young man whose name I clearly never bothered to commit to memory, but who I do remember is an investment banker. I'd already tried to exchange a few words with the man in front of me, but he wasn't having any. So it was me, Jim and investment banker.

Here is a picture of me at about 5.30 am. I was already quite cold. This didn't really improve.

So for two and a half hours I queued. On the down side I lost the feeling in all my toes, and, weirdly, my bottom. On the up side I got to realise my ambition of listening to the bleeps that signal the beginning of the Today programme. (Here I ought to point out that this isn't a proper ambition. It was just something I'd always vaguely wanted to do, but only when I thought about it and only when I was bored.)

At just before eight the queue shuffled forwards as people packed up their tents. There was a general sense of anticipation, and people started emerging from their coats; red snuffly noses bared to the dawn. We all started to discuss which postcards we wanted. No one around me was there to try to get anything by someone famous, like me they just fancied getting some cheap, fun art. A woman behind me said that last year she'd had a list of forty, and by the time she'd got to the desk only one of them was still there. I had a list of ten, and only four were for me. A cold hand gripped my heart. Or at least, it ought to have done, but my heart was probably already so cold that it had gone numb.
Then, just after eight, they let us in and my feet thawed out. The man ahead of me in the queue became unexpectedly chatty, but since by that time I'd stood next to him in near silence for nearly three hours I didn't know how to talk to him. Then, after another half an hour, we emerged into The Room Where You Buy The Postcards.

The Room Where You Buy The Postcards was a Bad Place. You queued up and down in a Disney Style formation, all the while watching this screen. It flicked up and down the numbers, and, as each card was sold that number went red. Everyone got out their flimsy bits of paper and started fixedly at it. Once every few minutes someone near me would shake their head and cross a number off their list. People were only allowed to buy four postcards, so, given that there were a hundred people ahead of me, that meant that 400 of 2000 + had gone. But that still meant that everyone round me didn't get their ultimate first choice. I didn't either; the poodle I liked went ten minutes before I got to the desk. So, art is very subjective, but not that subjective. Interesting.
I made it to the desk. I got my second choice postcard, and Beth's third choice. I decided I didn't like the poodle that much anyway. I paid. I relaxed.
Then I went round the corner to collect them, and managed to snap a picture of my postcard while it was still on display. It is the bear. Isn't he lovely?

While I waited I watched a woman interview a young man who'd managed to get four postcards by people like Grayson Perry. But I didn't see the actual cards so I can't tell you which ones they were, and I couldn't work out what channel she was from, so I couldn't watch the report.

And then, finally, four hours after I'd arrived, a runner went and got my cards, and I staggered out into the sun. And then back to bed. Would I do it again? Maybe, I'm not sure. It was cold and horrible and stressful and exciting and satisfying. Anyone want to come with me next year?

Friday, December 16, 2005

RCA Secret 2004


This year I resolved that I would get there by no later than lunchtime. The cards were not published on the internet and therefore I had only had the previous Sunday to look at the cards and to make my original list.

By arriving at around 12 noon it gave me the chance to look round the exhibition all afternoon and make my selection. I spent this time with by now the usual suspects - John, Hugh and Chris. As usual we compared notes and exchanged information on who we thought had done what.

The night passed reasonably uneventfully. I had a terrible cold and had had a bit of Jack Daniels and coke before I went to sleep so I am afraid that I snored a bit something which my next door neighbour in the queue probably wasn't best pleased about.

Again eventually the waiting was over and we filled into the hall to buy our cards.

I was much more organised with my list this year and had a much better structure about what I was going to ask for. By the time I got to the front all the talk around me was whether the Nick Park's had gone (they hadn't).

When I got to the front I therefore excitedly read out each of the Nick Park numbers. The first three numbers had all gone but then I struck lucky on number 4 and a Nick Park was mine.

I also got a card I had identified as the only Ray Richardson at the exhibition (a lovely little pencil drawing of a dog); a lovely abstract oil painting on board by Vicky Finding; a signature piece card by recent graduate of the RCA Debbie Lawson and, most exctingly, an abstract of a house that both me and Lisa had fallen in love with. It was only when the card was turned over that I saw it was by Donald Hamilton Fraser RA- a real piece of luck.

In fact our luck continued to be in as Lisa and I went back to the exhibition the following day and bought two cards by Lawrence Weiner and one by the Sculptor David Nash.

A great year.

Join the RCA Secret Yahoo group

I have started a Yahoo Group for RCA Secret. It includes areas for photos, files and even a developing database of RCA Secret Postcards that have been sold on Ebay.

If you would like to join please click on:

The more the merrier.

RCA Secret 2003

RCA Secret 2003

It seems that each year I turn up earlier and earlier in the queue. This time I got there around 5pm. Again I was in exactly the same place in the queue, around 35th.

My research for this years show was much much more detailed that it had been in the past and I had a long list of cards I was after. I love my abstract art and towards the top of the list were two excellent pieces by Anthony Frost. Also up there was a great little pencil sketch of a man dressed in a seventies style suit holding a dog by a lead by Ray Richardson.

The queue was probably the most social yet and friends I had met from previous years were there together with some new folk. I got talking more to John MacMahon (the drunk Irishman from the previous year) together Chris Jones, Hugh More and a girl called Holly who was an art student.

We all shared a bottle of jack daniels bought from the local offie to keep us warm and chatted about the cards we were going to buy. I had printed from the Bowieart site thumbnails of all of the cards in the exhibition and this sheet was handed round to all and sundry.

I also got chatting to Peter Sergeant, a sprightly 75 year old, who told me that he had been queuing for 5 days desperate to get the cards he wanted. That man really does know his art.

As usual the night was cold but fairly dry (which is the main thing). Once the queuing was over the excitement began and I picked up the cards listed below. I didn’t get my Ray Richardson but I did get:

My two favouries by Anthony Frost. I was absolutely chuffed to bits to get those.

A watercolour of a horse by prominent Australian artists Jenny Watson

A little ink sketch by Ben Sadler

A still life of a bowl of fruit, immaculately painted by Italian artist Candra Cassini.

My other half Lisa popped in later on Friday and bought another five cards including one by American conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner.

RCA Secret 2002

RCA Secret 2002

This time I queued alone. Having turned up at around 10pm in 2001 and been well back in queue I turned up about 7pm on the Thursday expecting to be at least a little bit closer in the queue. No such luck.

I think from memory I was in about 35th or 36th position and I knew I was in for a long (and cold night). By this stage I was far better equipped however as I had a sleeping bag and a huge fishing umbrella purchased from Argos.

It was absolutely freezing cold that night (probably the coldest night I have done it). As usual I talked to a large number of people in the queue getting to know them and the cards they were interested in.

About 12 at night a bloke turned up dressed only in a suit and having clearly had a significant amount to drink. He joined the back of the queue, cracking jokes in an irish accent and generally enjoying himself. Step forward John McMahon.

After an uneventful, but cold, night we eventually got to the exciting point where everyone starts to pack up their tents and the queue begins to bunch up ready for the opening at 9am.

Once inside I watch as most of the cards noted on my list – the Nick Parks, Damien Hirst, Anthony Frost, Albert Irvin etc get snapped up. So what do I get. Well I got the following:

A drawing of a half moon that was very attractive by Rebecca Hind

A drawing of a nude woman running by Sue Palmer

An abstract picture of some bubbles by Chris Koning

An oil of a dog by James Lee

A cracking drawing of an ostrich with his head lopped off by Shaun Gladwell, Australian artist

RCA Secret 2001

Secret 2001

Secret 2001 was the first year that cards were on the web at Bowieart. This presented a different challenge. By this stage I was much more into secrets but still not very knowledgeable about the artists exhibiting there. Of course I knew the big names, the likes of Sir Terry Frost, Nick Park, Paula Rego, Eileen Cooper etc but you have to queue for days if you want to get cards by those people.

I had again gone along on the weekend viewing and had armed myself with a long list of the cards I wanted. And I mean long. I had numbers scribbled here there and everywhere. It was mad.

This year my sister, who was studying at Cambridge at the time, wanted to come with me to the sale. We arranged to meet up at about 10 in the evening and to stay their overnight until the sale started the following morning.

Even arriving at this time we were still way down the line and it was an absolutely terrible night, pouring with rain and absolutely miserable. I didn’t really come prepared. I had no sleeping bag or tent just a pair of ski trousers and a large waterproof tarpaulin.

My mother turned up a little later (mainly to check on my sister) but came with two old duvets. Heaven.

It poured and poured all night. We chatted to some people in the queue including a guy who was buying stuff for his wife (who had recently given birth) and also a chap from Birmingham who had queued all night to buy postcards for his mother. That’s dedication for you.

Anyway by the time that 8am arrived we were tired, wet and bored. My sister had spent half of the night getting some shelter under an awning of the Royal Albert Hall.

As we went inside there was the usual anxious wait to see whether my numbers were being sold. It was nice this time though to be inside the building when the first cards were being sold and getting an opportunity to see the real excitement of the sale: the press, the hoots of delight from people when they realise they have the cards they want etc.

Anyway having got to the front of the queue I picked up my Six cards: I have to say that when the time comes to get to the front of queue it is quite dazzling and I end up getting brain ache. My head becomes full of numbers and I don’t seem to quite select the cards I really meant to get. Even so it was a reasonably good haul of cards which included

A drawing of a feather by Janet Patterson

An abstract landscape by John Hubbard

A bleak landscape scene by Jesse Ash

A bird by Stephen O’Driscoll

Two stunning rendered print-outs of leaves by artist Ben Johnson

My sister also picked up 6 cards. She didn’t get the Manolo Blahnik that she wanted but did pick up some interesting and unusual cityscapes.

RCA Secret 2000

Secret 2000

This was the first year that I attended the Secrets exhibition and I did not know quite what to expect. I went along with my girlfriend, Lisa, and her parents and we looked at all the cards on display. The reaction was mixed. Lisa’s parents felt that a lot of the items in the show were poor (which is certainly true) and that those ones that were good were likely to get snapped up straight away. I was however bitten by the secrets bug and couldn’t wait to see what I would land at the sale day.

Having registered we were told that the sale would be very busy and that it would be wise to get there early.

True enough on the day of the sale I got up exceptionally early to catch the first tubes to South Kensington. When I arrived I was absolutely amazed to see that the queue stretched all the way around the block. I was even more astonished when I walked round the block and say that the queue stretched even further around the back.

I contemplated whether it was even worth staying but felt that I was there then and may as well stay. In addition the weather was good (i.e. it was not raining) and I had just started a Harry Potter book so I had something to do in the queue.

I hadn’t taken the day off work though and wondered when I would get into the sale room.

The appointed time for the sale came and went I we hadn’t moved forward much in the queue. 9 O’clock was hit, then 10 then 11 and gradually I was creeping forward.

Eventually I must have got into the sale room (to see another big queue) around 12. By this stage needless to say I was not hopeful at all that any of my numbers would still be there and so it proved.

So I got someone to look after my position in the queue and just went around the room quickly (about 3 minutes) jotting down numbers of ones I liked that were still there.

By the time I got to the front of the queue even a lot of those were gone. But I gave two numbers to the lady behind the counter and handed over my £70.

In the end I did well. I got two postcards. One of a classic Kite design by Richard Smith and a second of a colourful painting by Catalan artist Eva Bosch

I now have both of these framed up and I love them. More to the point I was absolutely hooked on secrets and resolved to turn up even earlier at next year’s queue.