Monday, December 19, 2005

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!

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