Saturday, December 15, 2007

Adam's RCA secret story

Here is Adam's account of his RCA Secret experiences. Thank you to adam for sharing.


The 2007 RCA Secret exhibition was the seventh in eight years at which I have bought cards. People who have known me during most of that period accept it as part of my character that I go to some art ‘thing’ around the end of November. Many ask me to remind them the next time it’s on so that they can come and have a stab at getting the Hirst and making a mint when they sell it. When I do remind them the next year, their reactions are always the same: mild dis-interest for a few seconds followed by total loss of interest.


I like it that way. I am not interested in buying art (or the RCA Secret cards specifically) for the chance of making a quick buck. Very few of those I have met in the last eight years have had that as their motivation. Yes, many people do try to spot the Hirst, the Emin or the Opie. I do too and sometimes succeed. But if I don’t like them as a work, they don’t go on my list. I buy what I like. I still have all 25 cards that I have bought and only one of them isn’t on show. Not because I don’t like it; rather because I don’t have a frame for it – it being three dimensional and not easy to frame.

The first year I bought was 2000. I’d seen something about the show in 1999 and it appealed to me as an idea. The chance to get original art at, what I then thought and still think are, reasonable prices seemed a good thing. When the 2000 exhibition came about, I trailed over to the RCA and had a look at the pictures. Liking some, I made a wish list of about 15 cards and registered as a buyer.

I lived in North London then. So I got up in time to get an early tube to South Kensington and get to the gallery before the sale started. When I turned up, there was a rather long queue trailing down the street and round the corner. ‘Oh’ thought I. ‘This is popular’. The lady ahead of me in the queue asked me if I minded keeping her place as she had a list of one card and wanted to find out if anyone ahead of us was interested in buying it, too. Three people were. So she went home. My list of 15 was decimated by the time I got to the desk. But I still came away with three cards I liked then and like today.

In 2001, I missed the start of the sale, but went in the afternoon and came away with two cards. I correctly ‘spotted’ another card by a ‘someone’ still on the wall when there. Didn’t like it… didn’t buy it… don’t regret it one bit.

2002, ’03 and ’04 went by and I came away each year with cards I really like and a few I really love. In 2003 (I think) I came away with my first Candra Cassini: A picture of a smiling child wearing a blue hat and velvet jacket. The detail in that 10x15 cm piece of card impresses me to this day. I was amazed that it was still available when I got to the desk. Those infront of me had preferred other pictures. That we all like different things became apparent to me at that point. Everyone worries that everyone else wants what they want. It really isn’t the case.

The other thing that became apparent to me was that it’s cold outside in November. Although I had ski-wear on, I was, to say the least, a bit chilly when the doors opened for the sale. The person standing behind me must have been even colder as he’d turned up in his ripped jeans, a shirt and a blazer.

I made a mistake in 2005 and booked a trip to Toronto to see my favourite Ice Hockey team (The Montreal Canadiens) play against Toronto. Foolishly I didn’t think ahead and, on the day the RCA sale started, was in a Hotel on Younge Street. I took a photo out of the window at about the time the sale started. That is my work of art from that year… Both vices catered for in one go.

I moved out of London in 2005. So turning up as early as trains allow on the morning of the sale is no longer viable (as I’d probably get there to find everything has gone). The last two years found me waiting outside through the night. 2006 was very, very damp. Cats and dogs were afraid to go out for fear of being hit by falling cars and logs (it was windy, too). This year was COLD!!! (I was told that it was the first day this year that the temperature dropped to zero). I saw a snowman standing over a heating grille by the Albert Hall. It could have been a hallucination brought on by the cold. But, if not, he was warmer than those of us on the other side of the street.

In the morning, the lucky (and warmer) first fifty turned up, stood around for a bit and then disappeared into the building. I was envious of most, though pleased for some. Next it was our turn to go through the doors, down the stairs and finally up to a desk… My frozen brain now having to work overtime to work out what had disappeared from my list and what I still had a chance of getting. My frozen jaw then had to move to pronounce the numbers I wanted. Brain and jaw obviously did a good job as I came away pleased with my lot. I managed to buy the first picture on my list, the fifth, eighth and another in the teens. Not bad from a list of 60 pictures when some 70 people had gone before me (with the opportunity to buy 280 cards).

By the way, the first picture was my third Candra Cassini: a picture of General Custer (which goes very well with the picture of Sitting Bull from last year).

Though I don’t do this primarily out of charity, out of which the whole event arose, that is another good reason to freeze myself, get soaked to the skin or blown inside out overnight once a year. I enjoy it all. If in doubt, try it. You might, too.

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