Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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 

3 comments:

John said...

We went to the RCA Secret Exhibition this morning and bought our tickets for the first 50. This is our first year, so we also asked the staff when we were allowed to start queuing. We were told in no uncertain terms NOT to arrive on Friday and queue through the night as we would be moved on by the police! They suggested that the earliest we should arrive is 4am on Saturday morning. Any thoughts?

pezlow said...

Thanks for the comment John. I haven't heard anything from the college. Does anyone else know anything?

Greg said...

Does anyone know how I could confirm when queueing will be allowed?