Thursday, November 29, 2007

My RCA Secret 2007

Well you’ve waited long enough, and I’ve recovered from the exhaustion and excitement of the weekend so here is my RCA Secret 2007 story.

The RCA decided to stick with the raffle again this year which I was pleased about. Although I am prepared to queue for a night I can’t do more than one and therefore have never had any chance of getting in the top 20 or so. Therefore I do feel that the raffle was my best chance of being in there.

Excitement built as the exhibition got closer and there was more press coverage including a great 2 page spread in the Guardian showing advance pictures of a great number of cards in the show.

Finally the Friday came and true to their word the RCA released the cards on their website about 11.30am, approximately 30 minutes after the doors opened to the public.

I spent the next few happy days looking through all the cards and drawing up my first list. The number of contributing artists this year was immense – with some great new names to go with the old favourites which made it additionally exciting.

I went to the viewing on Sunday and bought my raffle tickets. Viewing only confirmed my favourite card in the whole show. For the second year running that goes to Peter Jones’ wonderful, wonderful monkey. I prayed that I would win the raffle so that that card would be mine.

After the viewing the list was compiled and I exchanged emails with old RCA secret friends about cards we liked, when we were going to start queueing etc.

Eventually Friday morning came and I packed up my stuff and headed down there. The weather was cold but fair, with not rain looking likely as there was not a cloud in the sky.

So I got down there and saw my old mate John. He mentions something that causes me to realise I had left my mobile phone at home. In the end I had to get a cab to my home and back again to pick up the phone – an expensive mistake.

The next few hours were spent in the exhibition looking at cards and discussing with the usual crowd – John, Adam and Hugh what cards we were going to buy. Also there this year was my mate Mark who has also been bitten by the RCA bug. We also saw Austin and John, Peter, Chris and various other regulars.

An interesting game for you. Look at one wall of cards and the rule is that you have to make your selection of 4 cards just from that one wall of 100 cards. I guarantee that if you play this properly you start to see other cards you hadn’t seen before, and start to change your mind about cards you had.

Anyway eventually the time came for the exhibition to close and for us to be turfed out on to the street for the waiting to commence. I had my phone glued to my hand for the next hour but… no call. I wonder if I am ever actually destined to win this raffle.
Anyway we did get a call from Chris (another regular in the queue) who won the raffle and John’s wife who also won. But I will let John tell you all about that.

The next few hours were a happy blur of a few pints, a very well deserved pizza and then hot chocolate before trying to get some shut eye. I think I managed to sleep from about 12.30am until about 2.30am. By that stage I was awake and unable to sleep – so I wandered off to talk to some people in the queue who had just arrived.

We all decided that we would pack our stuff up early this year given that the people at the front of the queue were some considerable distance from the college door after a negotiation with security on the Thursday.

So we were queueing properly and ready when the lucky raffle winners arrived, including Chris, who it was great to see.

This year the raffle winners all went in and bought their cards before we were allowed to go in. I think this slowed down the queue very considerably indeed as we had absolutely no time once we were down there to check off the cards on our lists against the screens showing what cards had been sold. I believe that the college did this all the way through the sale. In my opinion that must have led to people spending much longer at the till since they had not had a chance to see whether their cards were sold. I really do not understand the reasoning for this.

Anyway within what seemed like moments I was there in front of the queue and in front of cashier, having marked off only a single card on my list – the Peter Jones monkey – gone again to someone ahead of me in the queue. Boo Hoo.

So I started with my next two cards – 1587 yes that is available. 2050 – yes that too. I couldn’t believe it. They were 2 I thought might be by Damien Hirst. Was this a good sign or a bad sign. There had been 65 people in front of me in the queue. Surely one of them must have thought they were cards worth having. Maybe the punt was totally wrong.

Then next to the abstracts I thought were be Albert Irvin – 822 no sorry that is gone, 1787 yes that is available. Great.

Then the numbers started coming. I went through my list methodically at first and then, as each and every number I read out had gone, I started to panic. I started jumping about my list. Was everything sold? Eventually having read out at least 40 numbers I came across one that was unsold. Out came the money. And off to see if I was to be elated or disappointed.

Well it was elation. I couldn’t believe it. The Damien Hirsts were indeed Damien Hirsts. I had my Albert Irvin and a very nice Olafur Eliasson card as well. I couldn’t have been happier.

Interviews and photographs later and much backslapping with John (who had alerted me to the possibility that the Damien Hirst cards might have been by Hirst in the first place, what a good mate he is). John also did very, very well but I will leave him to tell you all about that.

A very, very good year. More of the same next time please RCA.

Views from the front

Here is a little description of the queueing experience from Chris - 1st in the real queue, 51st to make his selection. Over the years I have got to know Chris well, way back in 2001 or 2002 I think we both queued for one night. Since then Chris has been well and truly bitten by the bug - 3 nights queueing this year for 51st in the Queue.

Chris is really really keen to get hold of any Kiffin Williams cards from previous years. If you have any you are prepared to sell or swap please leave a comment on this thread and either myself or Chris will get in touch.

"Well, another year over, and perhaps not as successful as it could have been!

My list, as was always likely to be the case, was registering ‘not available’ at the sales desk, so had to revert to the ‘gamble’ strategy, which didn’t pay off for me as did others.

Despite this, the list I compiled was down to work that was liked, as a follow on from those identified, so went away with 4 artists unknown to me, who will still, nevertheless, be good for my collection.

So, strategies for 2008 establishing already,just need to a) do a little more homework, and b) get lucky in the raffle!

Despite all, my pal Nick from same village (who picked up 3 Crowleys….I already have 3 so gave him a steer on these) and myself had a good time, and I will definitely be there next year….as for Nick, will have to wait and see….

We arrived at about 3pm on the Wednesday, pitched tent at the foot of the steps, and viewed….then lo and behold, as if by bush telegraph, another arrived...two tents put up by him, and he was closely followed by a young student.

So, night 1 spent successfully, and the union bar of ICL used….as well as showers on floor 2….very helpful especially as the guards looked upon us as vagrants

So Thursday lunch….free concert in the Consort Café in the RAH, followed by discussion with head of Security who wanted us to down tents and disappear!....compromise reached, and moved camp back about 20m to bottom of disabled ramp….all then happy, and hand shakes all round!

Thurs evening again ICL bar and refectory for meal, and finished off the remains of our wine box…resulting in good sleep.

Friday morn, off to Harvey Nicks and back to free concert again, and then into the show for final view and list compilation….and waiting for the call…..unfortunately it never came….

And so to Sat morning, and the waiting finally over, I suppose in retrospect, I could have supplemented my Anita Klein collection, or my Nick Park, but played the ‘go for broke’ card. Any way, a pair of little dog watercolours ( the ones with A and M in bold with some witicism below, and two nudes, one in watercolour the other in pastel…..quite nicely done….but prob not for framing).

Some good press coverage, and I spoke to someone who was watching Sky News, where they had coverage on the Saturday morning.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

RCA secret in the news

The observer featured a piece about the sale here.

There was also a bit in the Independent on Sunday. Click here to read it.

Oh and just to clarify because I've had a couple of emails about it, it was not my wife who won the raffle but co-moderator of this blog JMM. I've been encouraging him to post more so long may it continue ;) Hopefully both of our stories of this years sale will be on the blog soon. Mine will as soon as I get a chance to write it. I'd love to hear your stories too.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Best year yet

For me personally and in my opinion for the college. A very smooth and professional sale, dealt with really well and with the identity of the artists published on the website already. Hats off to the RCA.

Now I want to hear you stories of your day for possible publication on the blog. Do let me know your thoughts.

I will be posting mine soon. Also check out the Observer and Independent on Sunday for press reaction.

Having hardly slept a wink alnight I am completely knackered but very happy. Will post more soon.

Sold out in one day - Names now available

The RCA website has been updated to show the artists name alongside the cards, not that the sale was completed in one day.

Head over to the RCA website to see the names of the Artists, the ones you guessed correctly, the ones you didnt.

Image shown is one of 3 cards by Julian Opie.

View from the top....

I camped out last night, but my wife not only made it into the top 50, but was redrawn in pole position.

I'll post our story once I've got some rest, and some warm food, and had a day or two for it all to settle in.

In the meantime, What would you have bought?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What is your favourite?

So the cards were released on the rca secret microsite almost as soon as the sale opened to the public. Well done to the RCA. Also big shout for publishing the list of contributors on the website - it saves staring at the list of contributors for hours when arriving at the show.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

RCA Secret - A critical response

Here's something a bit different. The rca have commissioned a short critical response to RCA Secret. Click here to read it.

More contributor news

According to this article in the independent on Monday in addition to the contributors listed in posts further down this years contributors also include David Hockney, Paula Rego, Grayson Perry and Nick Park. With these contributions as well as all the others this undoubtedly makes it the best list of contributors ever.

RCA Secret FAQ's

How do I spot the cards by the top artists?

The million dollar question. My first answer to that would be another question – why would you want to? If it is because you love the artist anyway and RCA secret is the only way that you can pick up their work at an affordable price then trust me you have a good chance of spotting your favourite artist’s work.

If it is because you are looking to make money out of the sale then, sorry you are on your own. And in any event it is unclear how much the cards from the sale are worth in any event.

What time should I start queuing?

Any time after me ;) Seriously though I know people who have started queueing 2 hours after the sale doors opened and have still got the cards they want. It really depends on how committed you are. The queue starts to swell quickly from around 6.30am until the door opens.

What should I buy?

It sounds clichéd but seriously you should buy what you like. Isn’t that more important than buying something that you think may be by a famous artist? I guarantee most of the time your punts at a famous artist will usually be wrong.

What’s the best way to frame RCA secret cards?

I personally think that they should be framed so that the card can be viewed both front and back. A professional framer should be able to guide you on this, basically you can cut out a bit of the mount at the back to show the rear of the card and that all important signature. This can make the framed piece heavy if two pieces of glass are used, so consider using a piece of Perspex on the back, which is lighter.

Clearly the best way of protecting your cards is to make sure that the cards are conservation framed with UV glass. To make a real difference try using non-reflective glass.

How does the buying process work?

A very frequently asked question. You can view the cards for a week before the sale day both in person at the college and online.

Don’t forget to register with the college in advance (there is no registration on the day of the sale) and then join the queue on the day of the sale. Make sure you have made a detailed list of the card numbers that you wish to purchase. Make this list as long as possible as many of your first choices are bound to be gone by the time that you get to the front of the queue.

Eventually you will be taken down to a room below the exhibition hall. There will be a bank of tills in the room and also a computer screen which will display the numbers of the cards. If the number of the card is green it means that it is still available – red means sold.

When you get to the front of the queue read out the card numbers to the cashier. Don’t worry if you haven’t noted whether a particular card is still available – they will tell you if it is not.

Once you have selected your four cards then pay for them and take your collection slip up to the gallery. There a runner will get the cards for you, confirm with you that they have the correct ones, and hand them to you. You can then check the back for the all important name.

How do the college keep it all a secret?

The college take this seriously. Whilst people have tried to suggest that the college must pass on information to others there is no foundation to this at all. The college are extremely fair in the way they deal with the sale. Only a very small number of people are aware of the identity of the artists.

Separately I was accused last year by someone in the queue of being given inside information by the college because I thought I knew who some of the cards were by. This is not true and utterly ridiculous. The college would not take any steps to breach the sanctity of the sale by allowing any individual to be given such knowledge. Besides I don’t need or want to be told inside information. The whole fun of RCA secret is working out what artists did what cards all by yourself.

How much are the cards worth?

The short answer is whatever people are prepared to pay for them. It is true that in recent times many of the cards in the sale have fetched large sums on the secondary market. A Peter Doig card went for £42,000 at auction and a Damien Hirst for £15,600.

Save for the very top artists most of the cards are not worth that much money. Ebay sales of cards from previous sales show most selling for around their original cost.

This is really not about the money for most people – it is getting some affordable original art on people’s walls.

Who exhibits at RCA secret?

Of course there are the big names. Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin in particular have contributed to the sale year or year. Many other big names have contributed in the past – Hockney, Rego, Doig, Auerbach, Kapoor etc etc.

For me RCA secret is not just about these big name contributors though. There are literally hundreds of well known well established artists who regularly support the exhibition. The beauty of the show is buying something by one of these artists, taking it home, doing a search for that artist on google and then finding out about them and taking an interest in their career after that. RCA secret has introduced me to hundreds of artists that I wouldn’t ordinarily have come across. If you allow it to it will open up your eyes to a whole new realm of contemporary British art.

As for the students – well remember that the RCA is an exclusively post-graduate place of study. So these students have already spent a considerable amount of time immersed in the art world. Some of my favourite RCA secret cards are by students.

What do the college do with unsold cards?

There aren’t many. The college say that they are returned to the artist sometimes. In 2006 some of the 2005 cards made reappearances.

Where can I find out more about the artists?

Often you will get home, google the artist’s name and not find anything. Especially if they have a common name. Try emailing the college. They may hold the artists CV or a short biography that they will give to you.

How do I find out more about the show?

The RCA secret blog is a great start. Also do try the RCA secret yahoo group. This has lots of files about previous shows, links to RCA secret articles on the net, photographs of previous years cards, lots of members (many of whom are contributing artists), a database of card sales on ebay and on auction houses and much much more.

Can I contribute to the blog?

Yes please. This is an unofficial fan’s blog. I want to have as many stories from you as to your RCA secret adventures. Whether you are a newbie or an RCA Secret veteran please do send me your stories and provided they are clean I will publish them, guaranteeing as much or as little as anonymity as you would wish. I’d also love to hear from artists who would like to write something about the processes involved in contributing to RCA secret.

Finally, will you tell me who did card number 129?

Er no, here to help but come on that would ruin the fun of it all. Besides you might be ahead of me in the queue 

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Preview of some cards

In my usual trawl for RCA secret articles I came across one in the telegraph below, the text of which is reproduced below. This then led me to the telegraph website which, unbeknown to me, had published 10 of the rca secret cards in September. Hit them up here for the previews. I've published a couple at the top of this article.

Less than a week to go now. I'm sure I'm not the only one counting the days.

Here is the full text of the article.

A handful of buyers will strike gold in the RCA's 'lucky dip' show. By Alastair Sooke

Everybody wants a piece of contemporary art these days.

Damien Hirst's 2004 card
Guess whose? Damien Hirst's 2004 card

The market has grown so rapidly in recent years that even dashed-off works by graffiti artists such as Banksy are selling at auction for hundreds of thousands of pounds. But the flip-side of the boom is that works by many first-rate living artists are now too expensive for anyone but the super-rich.

Unless, that is, you strike it lucky at RCA Secret, the Royal College of Art's annual exhibition of about 2,500 postcard-sized artworks by established artists, designers and illustrators, as well as current students and up-and-coming graduates from London's RCA itself.

On the last day of the show, which opens on Friday, the postcards will be sold for £40 each, with proceeds going towards an awards fund for students at the college. The catch? All of the postcards are signed on the back: the identity of the artist is revealed only after the buyer has handed over the cash.

In short, RCA Secret is the art-world equivalent of a lucky dip. It's a tantalising proposition: this year, several big names have contributed, including Peter Blake, Julian Opie, Yoko Ono and Tracey Emin, as well as the fashion designer Paul Smith and the filmmaker Mike Leigh.

Now in its 14th year, the exhibition offers eagle-eyed enthusiasts the chance to make a quick buck. Three years ago, one lucky punter bought a sketch of a human skull with an eye in the middle of its forehead, only to discover that it was by Damien Hirst.

It was auctioned off at Sotheby's this summer for £15,600. Its price was boosted perhaps by the frenzied interest surrounding Hirst's recently unveiled For the Love of God, a diamond-smothered human skull, with a massive 52-carat stone above the eye sockets, which the London gallery White Cube was trying to flog for £50 million. The postcard looks like a preliminary sketch.

That was nothing, though, compared with the profit generated by a painting of a bearded man in a canoe by the fashionable British artist Peter Doig that was picked up at RCA Secret seven years ago. It sold for £42,000 at the same Sotheby's sale as the Hirst postcard. Again, timing was important: a large painting of a white canoe by Doig sold for £5.7 million at Sotheby's at the start of this year, five times above estimate and a record for a living European artist at the time.

Over the past decade, RCA Secret has become so popular that the college now holds a raffle for tickets to be among the first 50 customers allowed inside the building on the day of the sale. Hundreds more will queue from the early hours, hoping to buy a mini-masterpiece of contemporary art that won't break the bank.

Inside it might feel like department-store sales hell. But for those who swoop upon a gem that no one else has spotted, all that jostling will be worth it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Contributions this year

The college has now published more details of the bumper crop of contributors to this year's show. They include:

Yoko Ono, Julian Opie, Nan Goldin, Damien Hirst, Mary Fedden, Sir Peter Blake, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin, David Bailey, Mike Leigh, Sir Paul Smith, Mario Testino, Maggi Hambling, Richard Wilson, Bob and Roberta Smith, Milton Glaser, Elizabeth Blackadder, Thomas Ruff, Lawrence Weiner, Andrew Logan, Anita Klein, Albert Irvin, Grenville Davey, Sonia Rykiel, John Squire , Peter Howson, Norman Ackroyd, Derek Boshier, Tom Hunter, Holly Johnson, James Dyson, Will Alsop, Quentin Blake and Terence Conran.

I personally think this is one of the best year's yet. All the old favourites are there together with a significant number of new contributors to whet the appetite. A really strong showing of photographers this year as well with David Bailey, Mario Testino, Thomas Ruff, Nan Goldin and Tom Hunter all amongst the contributors.

For all the details swing over the rca secret microsite by clicking here.