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.

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