Monday, December 31, 2007

Marianne's Secret 2007 story


First of all a very merry new year to you all. 2007 was a great year, let's hope 2008 is even better.

We finish the year with an account of Marianne's 2007 RCA secret experience. You may recall that I published Marianne's 2005 experience. For a trip down memory lane click here to read that. Anyway on with Marianne's story.

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2007 was my third year of RCA Secret. The first time I went, I was alone, having seen an article about it in Metro. I had no idea what to expect, and a list consisting of just two postcards. Looking back, I was incredibly naïve to think that I would actually get one of them. I was, however, quite canny about queuing, and ended up about place 100, and since this was the last year before the raffle, and I refuse to stay up all night, that was probably as good as it'll ever get for me. Incredibly, I got one of my two cards (a fantastic watercolour of a bear). And so I was hooked.

Last year I persuaded several friends to come along with me, and all of them got at least some of their top postcards, but the rain was so terrible that I think it put them off the whole experience. This year my good friend A came – she'd been to the exhibitions before, and I'd bought her a card she'd liked last year as a Christmas present. When you bring a friend, while it makes the queuing a lot more fun, you do worry like mad in case they don't get their card.

Last year I'd made a list of about 20, and when they had all gone by the time I got to the desk, I went for a card that was down as a "maybe" in an earlier list I'd made. This, I think now, was a mistake. I do like it, (RCA fans may remember it, it was called The Flying Mermaid) but no one else does much, and it really doesn't go with anything else I've got up. I've got it framed up, but ours is a small flat, so it will have to wait until I move somewhere bigger to find a spot. So this year I went in thinking, above all else, I wanted something I was really happy with, and could hang in the sitting room with general approval. No more "maybes". I was buying a "yes" or I wasn't buying at all. Which meant resigning myself to there being a strong chance I'd get up at 4am, queue for five hours and come away with nothing.

So I went round and round and round that exhibition, and then the internet site, checking and double checking that I'd seen and considered everything, until I'd made a list of about 40. But even then, I only really liked the top 15 or so, and really loved the top six or seven. Which were, in case you're interested, 1816, 799, 926, 531, 545, 1841.

All dogs.

Most of my top 40 were dogs, in fact. Dogs, and then when we got down a bit on the list, wistful looking women started making appearances. I have embarrassingly mainstream tastes. More of which later.

To defend myself a little, I think I like a certain type of art, expressive, affectionate and soft. I don't want to hang anything satirical, or rude, or that has one big obvious joke. And people who paint dogs are probably going to like dogs (at least enough to spend a couple of hours staring at one) and so are likely to paint/ draw their subjects with affection.

I spotted a few that I was almost certain were by big name artists, but I'm no expert, and I knew the chances were that if they were still left in when I got there, then they wouldn't be the names I'd hoped for. And, to be honest, I didn't especially like any of them. The cards on my list were cards that I knew I loved, and, crucially, that I thought I had a realistic chance of getting.

So I arrived on the day with A, a bottle of brandy and two hot water bottles and prepared to wait. We were 150 in the queue (not including the raffle winners). Am I the only person to have found this year particularly freezing? We had a bad moment when we couldn't get the lid off our brandy, but a girl next to us came to the rescue with a pair of tweezers. Which I fear I may have ruined. And she didn't even want any!

A had a scarily short list of cards she wanted, I think maybe 6, but was in good sprits, saying she was here as much for the experience as anything else. Me, I wanted my card.

When we finally got into The Room With The Screens things got excruciatingly tense. Every card on my list had gone – every single one – except my number 4 choice, 531. Number 4 was higher on my list than I'd possibly hoped, but with about 50 people still ahead of me buying, and each with an allocation of 4 cards, it seemed unlikely I'd get it. Especially since my number 3 was of the same dog by the same artist, and had already gone. And that dogs were clearly very popular. A was down to only two of her six, one of which was her number one choice, and so we had half an hour of agony, inching forwards, watching those screens flick round and round and round, willing our numbers to stay green.

Just before we got to the top, A's number one went (literally as she was stepping up to the till). But she still got her number 2, 1717 (pictured left). And – success! I got 531 (pictured top). We danced a small jig into the gallery, picked up our cards, and then went weakly off in search of cups of tea.

Now I'm at home, I love my card more than ever. I like the character of my dog, the way his leg is folded, the serenity of his expression against the strong yellow background. And I love the card even more now that it is imbued with all the triumph of bagging it against the odds. I googled my artist, Vanilla Beer, and I think I can say I have found someone whose work I will definitely follow, and almost certainly buy in the future. (And, as an aside, the Saatchi website is a boon when you're looking up RCA artists, isn't it?) I don't think my postcard is worth very much financially, but it is worth an awful lot to me.

There was a lot of talk on the BBC message boards about what suckers we all are, to be buying art and gambling on getting big names. But I really don't think that's the point of the exhibition – except for a few lucky raffle winners, and people who really know what they're doing. For most of us, it is a chance to buy art without no considerations apart for the image itself. We are buying art in its purest form. And with all the hype and posturing that so often accompanies modern art, I think that's something to treasure.

1 comment:

Joe said...

Hello, same question as Marianne - how do I get in touch? JC