Tuesday, October 10, 2006

RCA Interview

With just a few weeks to go before RCA Secret 2006 I caught up with the friendly people at the RCA for an exclusive interview. My thanks to Anna Larkin in the RCA Media relations team for all her help:

PH: With less than 2 months to go before RCA Secret starts is there a lot more to organise?

Yes there is still lots to do at this stage. The most important thing is receiving the artists’ work and so many things can’t be done until the postcards arrive – cataloguing, photographing and planning for the display of the exhibition.

PH: When do you start planning the show?

Planning for RCA Secret happens all year-round but the office where everything happens opens at the beginning of the summer.

PH: How do the artists get involved? Do you have a list of artists that you send out blank cards to or is there a call for artists to contribute?

All the artists are invited, this includes our own RCA fine art students and graduates which represents an extraordinary amount of talent and then an extra number of established artists and designers, many of whom already have a connection with the College or have contributed to RCA Secret previously. We also research new artists who have never done it before and whom we would like to take part.

PH: The number of cards in the show seems to change each year. Do you exhibit all of the cards received? If not what happens to the cards that you don't exhibit?

We try and exhibit all the cards from invited artists, and try to accommodate latecomers as best we can. The artists have donated their work to support our students, so we really want to include them.

PH: Can you give us a sneak preview of the artists who have contributed to this year's show so far?

No, sorry! We’re keeping it secret for a little while longer yet. Keep checking the RCA website for updates.

PH: Last year the cards were not published on the internet until two days before the sale, and then not all of the cards were published. It must be a logistical nightmare photographing and cataloging all the cards. When do you think the internet site will be up and running this year?

It’s a big undertaking, and we’re never quite sure how many and when cards will arrive, so when we received over 2,000 cards last year it took longer than we anticipated. We also had some technical hitches last year. We’ve addressed the problem for this year and we’ll be doing our best to launch it on 17 November.

PH: So how do you keep the secret? What stops details of who did what leaking out before the sale commences?

Only a small group of people who work on RCA Secret know who has done the cards and we are all committed to it being a success and raising money for the students. Therefore we wouldn’t want to jeopardise this in any way. I also have to sign a contract in blood to keep the secret – on the back of course (only joking).

PH: You have stuck with the decision to keep the number of cards each individual can buy down to 4. This certainly seemed to work last year in that it gave people more choice. Any plans to reduce this number any further?

For the time being we are keeping it at 4 per person.

PH: I know lots of people who would love to have a second bite of cherry and buy another set of cards. Have you ever thought of allowing buyers to buy another 4 cards on the second day of the sale? Do you think this would work?

We prefer to allow people to just buy 4 cards so that more visitors get the chance to buy them.
It’s always good to get extra ideas, but we’re keeping to the four cards per buyer for this year anyway.

PH: You have introduced a raffle ticket system for first 50 places in queue for this years sale. What was the rationale behind that?

The “jump-the-queue raffle” is an added feature for this year – it’s fun, it raises more for the student fund, and it helps with accessibility for those who can’t queue for days on end.

PH: How are the logistics of that going to work? Presumably only registered buyers will be entitled to buy raffle tickets? How are they going to be informed of their success in the raffle? How will you stop people purchasing more than one set of raffle tickets, taking someone else's identity in the raffle or auctioning their raffle position on ebay?

It’s based on a normal raffle ticket system. Registered buyers can only buy up to 5 tickets at the show, we pick the numbers out of the hat the day before the sale and then telephone the 50 lucky winners. If someone doesn’t want to attend then we pick another ticket.

PH: You indicated after last year's sale that camping would be banned in future years. What would be your message to people intending to queue overnight (or for longer) at this years sale?

It’s great having such an enthusiastic following for RCA Secret and we are very grateful to the many regular buyers who come year after year. However, we want more people to have a fair chance of being first in the queue. We also don’t want people camping in freezing cold weather and getting ill.

PH: Perhaps unlike any other art event in London RCA Secret has a large group of extremely dedicated and knowledgable fans. You must be delighted with the way in which the sale has captured the public's imagination and broadened the interest in contemporary art?

It’s fantastic. The artists’ work is amazing both individually and as a mass exhibition. It really represents what’s going on in art now, and is a pleasure to visit, whether you buy or not.

PH: A few years ago you used to sell frames at the sale so that people could instantly frame up their purchases. Are there any plans to do this again?

No plans this year but it’s something we might consider for the future.

PH: The list of contributors to RCA Secret reads like a who's who of UK contemporary art. Have you ever thought of publishing a catalogue of some (or all) of the contributions to RCA Secret over the years?

A catalogue would be extremely expensive to produce and as the event is to raise funds for the students we don’t think we should use the money in this way. I believe it would also go against the immediacy and spirit of the show. The website does act as an archive to an extent though.

PH: At the end of the sale what happens to the small number of cards that are not sold?

We do our best to sell all the cards and keep to our commitment to the artist to use their work the way it was intended. Some artists request cards to be returned if they are not sold, which we do.

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