Saturday, December 27, 2008

Framed at last

Seasons greetings to you all. Just thought I would share my recent RCA secret framing. The Laura Green is a card my other half bought from this year's sale and the Albert Irvin is a card I got from the 2007 sale, which until now had been sitting in a muji frame but has not had the treatment it deserves. All are archivally framed with museum glass and a bit of perspex on the back so that you can turn them over and look at the signature if you wish.

Albert Irvin - 2007 sale

Laura Green - 2008 sale

Josie McCoy - 2008 sale

Lucie Bennett - 2008 sale

Frances Fogg - 2008 sale

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Season's Greetings

Just a quick note to send Season's greetings to everyone.

Looking forward to next year already? In the meantime drop us a note let us know what you've done with your postcards, its easy to send a comment to the blog. Best wishes to all!

Pictured is a 2008 postcard from Nick Park.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Emin card hits the bay

A Tracey Emin card from this years sale is being flipped on ebay. Click here to see the auction. I try not to be too judgemental about these things, as we don't know the sellers personal circumstances, but I have to say the price is ambitious to say the least. The only previous Emin card to be sold on ebay reached £1220 on a standard auction. That card was a better image, in my opinion of course. The seller for this one wants at least over 4 times that much.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chris and Nick's Story

Queue regular Chris has shared this story. Over the last couple of years he has persuaded his mate Nick into queueing with him. Here are their experiences.

After looking forward to the end of November trip to London like a child awaiting Christmas, my pal Nick and myself prepared ourselves for the cold of the pavement with a number of planning meetings in our local pub, and with a warming fire and some full glasses of Butty Bach, discussed the strategy…should we go on Monday, or Thursday, and should we use our old trusted tent, or buy a ‘pop up’ replacement off e bay… as the day approached, and new tent duly arrived (but only just in time), we set off for London at lunchtime on Wednesday to take up our place in the queue.

As we drove along the Kensington High Street at almost 3 pm, we hoped that we might be up at the front of the campers…that is, 51st in the pecking order on the day if not lucky in the raffle.

We were quite happy to see just the one tent in front of us as we parked on the meter right outside the RCA, and as I asked a prospective buyer to move his bike if possible from our camping pitch, Nick unloaded the tent from the car, and we gingerly released the straps, and hey presto, the tent was up and we assumed our place in the queue.

We discover soon afterwards that the first tent belonged to Anna, a regular in the queue, who had flown in from Lisbon and pitched camp on Tuesday afternoon, a very brave lady indeed.

So on with the strategy…one to stay with the car, on watch for the traffic warden, while the other viewed the cards…this worked well, and as the RCA closed its doors at 6pm, we only needed another 30 minute watch to reach the free parking time, and be able to wander off and find some supper and some warmth.

We had established some years previously a link with Imperial College students union, where the food is cheap as is the beer, so a curry and rice and a pint of Imperial lined the stomach, but we decided to stretch our legs and pop around the corner to another local and enjoy an hour of the footy in the bar.

So that takes us to the first night….a cosy double mattress and two 3-4 season sleeping bags resulted in a good nights sleep for us both….and awoke into Thursday and another day of list compilation and discussion.

As the day progressed, a few more intrepid souls arrived, the first whose tent refused to erect decided to use the outer as a bivi bag was followed by Gavin whose tent seemed to take on a mind of its own in the wind which gradually increased during the day.

We were in and out of the RCA many times during the day, and as is always the case, every visit and viewing opened up new possibilities as more fine detail became apparent on previously discounted cards!!

As the queue slowly snaked on to the College of Organists House, we paid for our last ticket of the day (after already having picked up a parking ticket for returning 5 minutes late), and walked to the tube to visit a Private View at a Gallery near Tower Bridge, of new works by Anita Klein, whose large watercolour greets me at the top of my stairs at home….and after a couple of glasses of wine, a long chat with Anita, returned to our tent and into Imperial for our supper.

Another new day dawns, and we are happy to see now 20 tents and chairs in the queue, with more arriving by the hour….and still we see many of the same people still fine tuning their lists and reaquanting ourselves with friends from the queue from previous years.

And so, as the gallery closes its doors at slightly before the 6pm deadline, we all await the next hour, and hopefully a call some time after 6…..and as we sit in the car,…having instructed family and friends to maintain radio silence during this hour….at about 18.06, the mobile rings…a withheld number…I answer…you are a lucky winner in the raffle…please be with us at 0700 tomorrow!...We are absolutely bowled over….as we decided to pool the raffle tickets and share any good cards we buy between us.

So after an evening meal in the pub, sleep beckons (after a wine nightcap in the car), and before long, the urban drone tells us its 0600 and time to decamp and see whose in the first fifty…..when we see it includes Peter and Gavin….are happy for them too, yet aware that if they are in front of me in buying terms, some of the best will undoubtedly be not available….

At 0700 we are called forward, and the raffle queue advances, and best wishes emanate from the remainder of the queue as we filter in to the RCA… seems that the fifty place cards each have the raffle ticket attached….so could my early evening call of the previous night suggest that I would be in the top 10…….in fact I was lucky to be number 4, so am in with a chance of some big name pieces….time for a slight strategy change….decide to ask for the top artists just in case there is a chance some still available.

The next 40 minutes seems to drag by as the college staff prepare for the onslaught….and at about 0745, we are ushered down the stairs and through the snake to the buying area.

It becomes clear that the order you have the cards noted could affect their availability….so, as we approach the desk, I put on a spurt, and am happy to see that the student using my terminal is ready and quick in entering the buyers number and card choices, and I am astounded that she replies YES to each of my selections. I am aware that number 1 in the queue must have been requesting the same cards as myself, but a split second behind, and the answers to her were ‘unavailable’.

I pay, and in a bit of a daze, skip up the stairs to the gallery to the press and runners, and hand them my buyers sheet…..the wait seems like an age….but it is as first thought….3 Regos and a Fedden!...Bingo…I say a few (very few) words to a German tv crew, and Reuters reporter, and with the white envelope tightly gripped, leave the building, and pass Nick at number 52 in the queue, still waiting to enter the college….we move to one side and I give him the good news….absolutely great news.

I see Perry and John behind the barrier….what’s the news Chris…..I am still shaking as I tell them that I have hit the jackpot.

Nick emerges some 30 minutes later, and drive down to Café Nero and over a Danish and a coffee, go over and over our good fortune. Nick has a Cassini and a lovely oil, and a couple of others…but we are both thrilled with our Regos and Fedden.

We drive home to Wales, and await the rest of the day….unfortunately, a victory over the All Blacks was not to be but we still ended the day on an incredible high.

The pictures will soon be in the framers, and will undoubtedly become a talking point when they take up their positions on my wall….an RCA Secret Sale never to be forgotten.

I must say that the organisation by the college was excellent, and the staff throughout were courteous and fair…shame that the lady guard could not smile a little more!

Look forward to seeing you all next year without fail….

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A raffle winners story

Here's an account of Christopher's experience of the sale.

In the end I got my purchaser number in good time - the college emailed me late on Wednesday morning with it, and late that day I popped down to the college to have a look at the postcards in person.

Whilst I was there, as my list of favourites was looking a little short, and my purchases would be surprise birthday/Christmas gifts for friends and family, I thought I'd try my luck and entered the First-Fifty raffle. I was informed that if my name was drawn they'd call me between 18.00 and 19.00 on Friday

Fast forward to Friday ... my mobile rings at 18.35 - number withheld; normally I'd leave it - friends' numbers come up on the screen, so normally it's either a marketing call, but if it's not, my theory is that if it's important the caller will leave a message; however, what with the raffle taking place I took the call "Congratulations this is the RCA you've won a place in the First-Fifty raffle!".

Wow - I couldn't quite believe it ... Instantly thoughts ran through my head - Maybe I should change my game plan? I've got a real opportunity to bag a big name now! The Quentin Blake and Nick Park cards are really obvious to even a layman like me; with a little bit of research, I could probably work out which are the likes of the Grayson Perry and Paula Rego's cards ... you fool! I can't believe you even contemplated cashing in! I'd chosen my original favourites on artistic merit and because they appealed to me and I know that they would appeal to the friends/family that I'm buying them for ... It would serve me right to try and bag a big name, but the postcards turn out to be imitations by unknowns, and end up with 4 cards that I don't even like. How sad to end up with 4 postcards on the wall that one doesn't especially like, but is justified having up on the wall just because it's by a famous name!

A quick browse through the postcards on the RCA website confirmed that my top 4 cards still meant the most to me and touched me more than any of the other cards - even with the knowledge that I could potentially give up the opportunity to bag a big name. A final look through Quentin Blake's cards confirmed that none of his cards particularly appealed to me - had his subject matters been different, then maybe I would I have jumped at the opportunity, but unfortunately none of them especially jumped out at me apart from the fact that they were obviously Quentin Blake, a shame, but you never know, I might get another opportunity in the future, and at moments like this I like to believe in Karma.

With my mind made up and cards chosen, I slept much better than expected. The alarm went off at 6.30am and I quickly switched it off - my girlfriend slept through it before it kicked in to really loud mode. Now, problem number 2 (number 1 being yesterday evening's slight temporary slip of conscience after winning a place in the First-Fifty); one of the cards will be a surprise Christmas present for my girlfriend - the one now lying asleep next to me in bed! I lay there for a few moments, listening to her deep breathing, making sure that she was still in a deep sleep; satisfied that she was, I very slowly slid out of the bed.

I then tiptoed to the sitting room and got dressed into the clothes that I had carefully hidden behind the sofa the night before. Whilst brushing my teeth, I logged on to the laptop and the RCA website to check for the umpteenth time that my postcard numbers on my list matched the postcards that I wanted. Website down - oh well, I had checked them too many times to remember just before I went to bed, so I'm sure that all will be well.

I hopped on to my pedal bike and enjoyed the refreshing crisp ride to the college, excited with anticipation.

I arrived just before 7am as instructed and headed to the front of the queue. I asked the girls at the front if they were each one of the First-Fifty too; they were, but it turns out that they didn't realise that there is another mini draw for the First-Fifty winners to determine the order of the winners, instead they assumed that it was first come first served as per the main queue, so they arrived over an hour ago in the hope that they would be the first of the First-Fifty; oh well they didn't appear too disheartened, to be one of the First-Fifty is still a fantastic opportunity anyway.

After more chit chat it turned out that 2 of the girls nearly missed out on being in the First-Fifty; on the tickets it states "Winners will be notified by telephone between 6-7pm that evening and must be available to take the call." one of the girls was on the Tube when she received the call - luckily she had a signal and she didn't go into a tunnel during the call, and the other was at home and doesn't normally answer her mobile when at home, fortunately, unbeknown to her, her husband was in the same room as her mobile, answered the call, found her in another part of the house and passed the phone to her saying "It's the RCA, they say you've won a raffle ..." So all in all, I think the girls were happy to make in the First-Fifty regardless of where in the First-Fifty they maybe placed.

Soon after our chit chat the doors opened to the lucky fifty.

The results of the mini draw placed me 29th in the queue, but bizarrely enough, a couple of people hadn't turned up, so I was in actual fact about 27th. I got chatting to the gentleman in front of me; he had been coming for a few years now, and this was the first time he had won a place in the First-Fifty, but his wife had won a place a couple of years ago. Over the years they had manage to accumulate a collection of works by an artist whose name I didn't recognise, but whose style had caught their eye years ago, and they were hoping to add to their collection this year. Behind me I got talking to another man, who turned out to be Wayne Chisnall.

As mentioned in Jules' blog below, Wayne is an artist who has previously exhibited in the RCA exhibition and has also contributed to this year's (see postcards 1022, 1650, 1996 and 2108). For those unfamiliar with him, he has been somewhat controversial in that he made public which were his entries to this year's sale, shunning the secrecy and anonymity of the postcards' origins. Well, I'm happy to report that he didn't use his insider knowledge to purchase any big names, instead, in the spirit of things, he bought what had caught his eye, which turned out to be by relative unknowns, and although his very first choice card was gone, his next four were still available and he appeared very delighted with his purchases.

With regards to my choices, I managed to pick up 3 of my top 4 cards, missing out on a card that I had chosen as a present for my mother - card number 303 by Brian Tattersfield; however, I was very pleased with my other purchases. Unfortunately, I won't reveal which cards I bought, in fear that my friends happen to stumble across this blog/entry while surfing the net ... Well ... ok then ... as my girlfriend is a technophobe, I suppose that I can at least reveal that I managed to pick up one of the Nicola Hicks cards for her - number 305, just don't tell her! And if you happen to be one of my friend's reading this, sorry but if I've bought a card for you, you won't find out if you're one of the lucky ones until your birthday, and don't hold you breath, I didn't land a big name (apart from Nicola Hicks if you're into sculpture that is, which I was very pleasantly surprised and chuffed with), but I guarantee that you'll still love you card!

Overall, I can say that everyone in the queue was very friendly. Everyone that I spoke to appeared to be there in the spirit of things, and to quote Jules, they all appeared to be after cards that "were chosen on the basis of being really drawn to them, wanting to have some gorgeous original artwork, & supporting the RCA to boot" and I can happily report that I didn't come across any eBay-Hags or profit vultures.

It was also great to see that as well as Quentin Blake, Manolo Blahnik also entered 6 cards, giving fans a much higher chance of picking up one of their works.

I hope everyone had as much fun as me, and managed to pick up at least one card that they were after. Looking forward to next year already, and can't wait to read Perry's blog/entry on his recommended method to frame the cards so that both the front and back are displayed.

By the way, it was fantastic reading everyone else's accounts of the sale - I hope you enjoyed mine.

See you all next year!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My RCA Secret Experience

As promised here are my RCA Secret experiences.

As is now becoming customary the build up to the show went very smoothly for the college with some good press articles and new contributors announced. I busied myself in the build up to the show by ferreting around on the internet finding articles on the show and refining my research on contributors.

Excitement built as the Friday approached and I did find myself refreshing the RCA Secret website at around 11am eager to see the cards on show. The college got them all up promptly and the next few days were spent looking through them all, working out which ones I liked best.

I went to the show proper on the Sunday, bought raffle tickets and took my daughter round it. She made a list of her favourite cards herself – many of which were far more bright and colourful than the cards on my list.

One further trip to see to show followed during the week and then come Friday morning I was ready to start camping. I woke up really early on Friday with a stinking cold and feeling pretty awful so instead of doing the sensible thing and rolling over and going back to sleep I decided to get up and get to the show as soon as possible.

I packed all my things up including my new purchase – an inflatable mattress for inside my tent and headed off.

I must have arrived around 9ish in the morning and busily set up my tent. The usual suspects were turning up or already there – Peter had been there for some time – Adam turned up shortly after me, John followed a few minutes later and then Chris an hour or so after that. I was 15th in the normal queue – thus 65th in the overall queue including the raffle ticket winners.

Once the college opened its doors we all piled inside and spent the next few hours looking through all the cards, selecting favourites and spotting, even at this late stage, cards we hadn’t seen before. By now I had three favourite cards – the Peter Jones monkey (inevitably), a beautiful pencil sketch of a woman’s face, and another pencil sketch of a tree or flower nymph. My favourite set of cards was a series of oil paintings of boats which I had known from previous sales were by Frances Fogg (although I don’t know a great deal more about her than that – any information gratefully received). I’d just missed out on one of these cards last year and was hoping that this year would be luckier in that respect.

Lunch followed with the usual suspects at Wagamammas and then a further few hours browsing the cards in the afternoon, all the time spending some time outside as well in the queue chatting to others.

Finally the doors closed and we were turfed out on to the street to commence waiting. I stood outside with the wind whistling down Kensington Gore with my phone in hand waiting and hoping for that raffle call. Sadly whilst others got the call around us in the queue I didn’t. After three years of the raffle I still haven’t won – maybe next year.

It was bitterly cold in the queue this year. Possibly even colder than 2007 with predictions on the weather forecast for snow and frost. The fact that I had a stinking cold didn’t help, especially with friends and family who thought I was mad to queue all night for this with the way I was feeling. But I had a flask and lemsip, a tent and a great sleeping bag which meant I was reasonably warm. I even got a few hours kip.

Around 6.30 we started packing up our stuff. As usual there were a number of queue bargers at the front of the queue. Many of them I think genuinely didn’t realise where the queue started and were thankful to us for letting them know that they were in the wrong place, and directing them to where they needed to go. As is customary, however, there were a couple of belligerent souls who believed they had a god given right to push in front of the now 400 odd people who had been queueing patiently. I don’t know what happened to them in the end but they weren’t around by the time we had packed up all out tents and, at least in part organised by me, formed our orderly queue.

The raffle winners were all milling about excitedly and it was there that I saw how many of the queue regulars had won the raffle – the two chris j’s, Austin, Gavin, Peter – this made me seriously concerned about what might be left when I got to the front of the queue.

As we were waiting news filtered out of what had been picked up by the raffle winners, one of the Chris’s came out telling me that he had landed “the jackpot” – 3 Regos and a Fedden. I also learnt that the Peter Jones card had gone to the lady queueing just behind me (whose name I have temporarily forgotten – apologies), who had won the raffle but elected to spend the night on the street with her husband in any event – now that’s spousal dedication for you!

Thankfully this year we were allowed in a bit earlier – whilst there were approximately 15 raffle ticket winners ahead of us. This gave us all time to mark off on our list more of the cards that had been sold, and definitely made the queue move quicker. As usual there was the occasional moan from the queue when a card that was really wanted had gone. By the time I got to the front nearly all of the obvious big name artists cards had gone but most of my favourite cards were still there.

I therefore had a pretty good idea about what had sold and what hadn’t, but was determined to be disciplined about going through my list of those I hadn’t checked off, just in case a card had been missed by those ahead of me in the queue. It took me a while but I went off upstairs happy with my purchases.

So what did I get? The pencil sketch of the woman’s face (possibly Penelope Cruz – whaddya think?) that was by Josie McCoy. I think this card is absolutely lovely but was possibly missed by many people who glanced over it as being a photograph or digital image.

My tree or flower nymph which, as I suspected, was by Lucie Bennett. I love this one.

One of the boats by Frances Fogg which I just think is so beautiful– as I said above all information about this artist gratefully received.

And finally a lovely card by an artist who I believe is Oxford based called Marie Boyle.

I was very pleased with my haul and had a great time, as ever, with friends from the queue, new and old. Congratulations to the college on another very successful sale. See you all again back for RCA Secret 2009!

Sunflowers with faces? Gone. Bird on cat head? Gone.

Here's an account originally from the tombola blog again reproduced with kind permission.

In the end we decided to set the alarm for 0120, in order to get a bus at 0200. Warm in bed, at that moment sitting shivering on the streets of Kensington was a marginally less attractive proposition than embarking on a pleasure cruise around the Horn of Africa. But get up we did and after some night bus fun (everyone else was heading home from nights out), we got to the RCA by 0300. I'd avoided thinking about how many people might be there already but was pretty surprised to find so many tents and sleeping bags lined up outside.

Wrapped in as many layers as we could comfortably fit in, we then spent the next four hours reading books and periodically walking about in order to try and regain the feeling in our feet. Others had brought drinks and chairs and were making a party of it. I'm just glad that Claire thought to bring cushions to sit on. At least it wasn't snowing.

Gradually, the sun came up, the tents came down and people got ready to enter the building. At this point there was lots of checking and rechecking of the postcard list. Immediately in front of us in the queue was a rather cocksure German (is there any other kind? National Stereotyping Ed.). He was confidently claiming that he knew exactly which one was the Anish Kapoor, which was a Turner Prize winner etc. etc. His girlfriend was one of the lucky 50 to win raffle tickets to be first in the queue, and she was going to get these for him.

The queue inched forward through the building and towards the sales desk. We estimated that we were in the first 150 or so and at this point I was holding out some hope of getting at least one of my top targets (a Quentin Blake, which were fairly easy to spot, or perhaps one by Nick Park, ditto). While in the final stages of the queue, there were two screens showing the numbers turning red as they were sold. We'd brought a list of ~150 cards that we liked, with about 25 each as our top targets. What followed was the most disheartening game of bingo possible, as numbers were routinely crossed from our lists and the prospect grew of us getting to the front and just picking any old number that was still available. The Blakes were gone early, along with the couple of oil paintings of London views, as was a cartoony one of a lion and a rabbit (that turned out to be Paul Smith).

There were a few salespeople so once one became vacant it was a case of saying numbers as fast as possible before someone else bagged them. Happily, three from our prime list were still there so we captured those. We emerged to find the enormous queue disappearing around the building (and smirked as we spotted some guy who'd tried to push in at 8am, now way back down the line).

We were back home by 1030, and saved the suspense of revealing until then. No amazing big names worth thousands but all ones that we liked so happy days. It was then a case of sitting by the radiator to try and warm up again.

It was an exciting and stressful experience and I'm really glad that we did it and got there early. Also very glad that we put the time in and made a long list of the ones we liked - to have got to the desk and end up having to pick one virtually at random would have been a big waste of time. Reflecting on it afterwards, we decided:
a. getting there a couple of hours earlier would have made very little difference - many hardcore people had been there for a long, long time
b. choosing ones you actually like to look at is the best strategy - pinning your hopes on something that you don't actually like, simply because it might be by someone famous is a waste of time. I'd had a [quick] go at guessing which ones were by Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin and John Squire and, predictably, they weren't. I had a feeling that the doodles of Barack Obama might be by a big name and now slightly regret not getting one after discovering they were by Alex Katz and were available when we were buying.
c. going with your heart set on one or two particular cards would be pretty much pointless
I'm not sure that giving away the first 50 places in a raffle is the best thing as 200 cards could be gone (individuals can buy up to four cards each) before the first person in the queue could have a go, no matter how long they'd been queueing for.

Anyway, here's one that featured highly on both of our lists and we were delighted to get:

By last night the RCA website revealed who each of the cards was by. Amusingly, we discovered that the German's assertions were mistaken.

Another video about the sale

Click here for a reuters news video about the sale, which features at least one regular from the queue.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Short video on chinese news

Click here for a link to a 3 minute piece about the CRA secret show ;( that was featured on chinese TV.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jules' RCA Secret experiences

Here are Jules' RCA secret experiences and thoughts, reproduced from her blog with kind permission.

I left my house at 04:05a.m - arrived at the RCA at 06:08am. Armed with my list, Coffee, my trusty D80 to capture images of the day & good intentions, this is what happened...

My dedication (which possibly pales in comparison to the campers I saw on Thursday night when I went to the late viewing) was firm & I'm so pleased that I stuck to my guns & did it. The day started off on a dodgy note - I had planned to night-bus it to the RCA due to wanting to get there as early as possible (I don't do camping I'm afraid) and because the Jubilee Line & both District & Circle were stuffed this weekend. Sadly, due to last minute faffing with my stove top espresso maker (I needed to make a few batches to fill my flask!), I left the house a few minutes later than I should have, and missed the 1st night bus I needed by a whisker. Sat in the station, I caught the next one - got off at Canary Wharf & ended up taking the early tube anyway. Picked up the 9 bus from Green Park & by 6a.m I was there.

I was stunned by the length of the queue when I arrived: all I could see were tents bowing around the RCA building... and then a sea of people. I had a feeling that it would be long, but this was something that needed to be seen to be believed. I joined queue which was in Jay Mews at this point, and instantly made 2 "Queuing Buddies" in Nick & Minh. This was an indication of how fantastic the atmosphere was - everyone, despite the bitter cold was friendly & talkative... it's also very impressive how good us English people are at queuing...! We were all here for the same love of art (I hoped so - the idea of Ebay & Art Dealer vultures is very sad indeed...) which proved to be a bond for the day.

8:00a.m and the doors opened - the was sudden movement again, and we all started shuffling along. By 8:30a.m, the queue was still growing - I wondered just how many people had turned up, as it was pretty amazing to see people coming "late" in hope of picking up what they wanted. Dedication must have persevered with the "late comers" as they must have been joining the line pretty far back at this point, but it was guaranteed with the buzz surrounding the whole thing, they would be alright... and surely walk away with something.

Anyway - the flask of coffee that made me late was worth it, as I needed something warm to keep me going... Even with my massive scarf and hat on, my tummy needed warming :) A few hours later & a surge happened again... we were moving along and the RCA building was in sight. This was a good feeling - knowing that I was bit closer to (hopefully) getting the cards that I was after. The buzz was really building up at this point - people were pulling out their lists & colour print outs again, double-checking their choices, discussing who they thought had did which cards and making sure they had made the right decisions. My list was saved on my iPhone & because of the wonders of WiFi being available in the area, I was able to hop on the RCA website and have one more look at the cards again. My heart was set on any of the main 17 I'd whittled down from the 2700 available, so that's all I needed to know. I had no clue as to who had done the ones I was interested in... and I really didn't concern myself with that, as they were chosen on the basis of being really drawn to them, wanting to have some gorgeous original artwork, & supporting the RCA to boot.

Good vibes were further boosted when a guy started walking along the length of the queue, handing out stickers to us. After asking, it turns out the guy was Wayne Chisnall, who was one of the artists that had submitted art to the Secret! I wonder if he came across anyone that was after what turned out to be his cards? I hope so, as this probably would have made their morning! He'd already revealed on his blog which pieces he'd submitted, and told us in the queue again, which I thought was quite cool to be honest...I'd not even made it into the RCA, and already I had a piece of art in my hands :)

09:57a.m & I was in the RCA. Of course, there was a queue in the building. We were were being let in on a "once ten have come out, you're in" basis from what I could tell. The 'bouncers' on the door were using hand-held counters - I tried to see how many they had clocked up already, but missed it! On the left hand side you could see people waiting to collect their cards in the Gallery Section... the glass doors to the Gallery provided a peep-hole to the final stage: happy faces, white envelopes sealed with art & the cards being taken off the walls... to the right were the stairs leading to the basement where the tills would be. I was glad that I couldn't see exactly which cards were being taken off the wall - I didn't want to know at this point if my entire top 17 had gone. Anyway, it was good to be in the warm but even better to know that this was it.

As I shuffled along into the basement queue, there were plasma screens set-up showing which cards had gone and which were available. Even though I had no plan or strategy (other than my 17 list on my iPhone) I couldn't help but look at the screens to see which ones had gone. It would have been the realisation of queuing for many hours & not really knowing if I was going to get anything from my list coming to a lame conclusion... and then my heart skipped - 2 of the cards that I had on my "Main 17 List" were still there...

11:16.a.m & I was done... and had got 2 of the postcards from my "Main 17 List"! As I said before - I had no clue as to who they were done by... it was simply the pleasure of falling for them on the web site & at the late viewing on Thursday and then walking away with them at the end. Exhausted but elated, I collected my art & headed home. There was still a substantial queue outside when I left the RCA - I hope that all those out there who wanted their cards managed to get them, as it's certainly worth the wait.

So, what did I end up walking away with after 5 hours of queuing?

No: 206 by Andor Kömives
(YES - the one I used on my 18th November entry on here!!!)

No. 833 by Bryan J. Robinson

It was defiantly a great experience. If you're willing to put up with cold November weather, a very long queue & you love art, I strongly suggest going for it.

The atmosphere of the queue also adds to the experience: I went along with my latest Raymond Carver book to read, and my iPod - neither of which I pulled out once as I was too busy talking to my queuing buddies. Of course, still bring such entertainment with you just in case if you're coming on your own - my iPod kept me awake during my journey home!

For the super-hardcore, camping is an option, but I'm not sure how successful that is if you're then made 51st in the queue due to the raffle tickets available for the 1st 50 places. I didn't bother buying a ticket for this, as I'm still not 100% sure I liked the idea of that - unless you KNEW some of the cards were by an acclaimed artist that you had to have... (& hopefully these didn't fall into the hands of unscrupulous eBay-Hags and shady dealers).

Bring a flask of tea/coffee/whatever if you can: You'll need something to keep you warm other than many layers of clothing. Food - defo bring some with you, if like me you can't eat breakfast at 3.a.m. Also, walking to the nearest Starbucks might not really be an option either...

Do have a look online at the cards, and if you can - try and make one of the viewing days that are available before the sale starts. Even though I knew of some people that didn't do this & still walked away with cards after choosing them off the plasma screens in the RCA on the day, it's a good idea to have an idea of what you want and to have a reserve list also. Being drawn to the cards on the basis of you liking them is the best feeling.

Remember - you need to be registered to buy a card. This can be done online, or at one of the viewing days... and it's free! Don't just turn up and join the queue if you don't have one of these...

I can certainly see myself going to this next year & hopefully I can build up a collection of Postcard sized art over time, and with each one be reminded of an excellent experience.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bunny Coco's RCA Secret Experience

Here is the great write up of the sale on Bunny Coco blog, reproduced with the very kind permission of the writer. More accounts to follow.

Well. That was an experience.

I got to the RCA and followed the tent contingent around the block where it turned into the chair and sleeping-bag contingent which became the standing bundled-up crowd around the corner. I joined the end of the line, cracked open my flask of tea, cleared my head and took stock of the of insanity. It was like joining the bread line in communist Russia. Queuing for a really long time for a loaf of bread not knowing how stale the bread would be by the time you got to the front of the line. Of course any comparisons between this event and the grim real-life hardships of life in the USSR are purely coincidental and fabricated in my own head in order to kill a bit of time. Anyway. iPod on, hat pulled down, collar pulled up, I catted down in the Baltic conditions knowing little except that absolutely nothing else was going to happen for 2 hours.

Good lord the great British public are good at waiting. Queuing, obviously, but waiting, yes really very good too. Standing, a bit of polite chit-chat, occasionally shuffling from one foot to the other but mostly waiting in one place for a long time without breaking form. I would have liked to see some enterprising individual come along with a coffee cart, though. Seems like a wasted opportunity to me. Around 7am the tents were packed up and we moved forward about 100 yards which took us just around the corner from the entrance. And then we waited again. For an eternity. Did I mention it was utterly glacial and borderline hypothermia inducing? After having 2 hours to get to the core of ones bones, the cold was starting to be a concerning discomfort and I was in no way under-dressed either.

When the doors opened at 8am the line moved forward in increments of roughly 50 people every 20 minutes of so. It was around 9:30am when I finally got inside and another 30 minutes of wending our way downstairs before being in the room with the screens that tell you what was still available. Of course I had a few notable artists on my list but these were quickly scratched off, already sold.

I had no strategy for the day, just a list of numbers and the decision in advance to buy 4 cards because I think the sale is a fantastic idea. When my turn came I secured 3 cards in my top 40. Perhaps I should have stopped there. Up until that point I’d made choices purely on aesthetic and/or sentimental connections. But I was drunk on the possibilities and chose a final card off my reserve list uncertain of its provenance, not because I was in love with it but because I thought it might be one of Billy Childish’s. And it wasn’t.

More than anything else I hoped to come away with a piece of John Squire’s work. That remained #1 on my list but the ridiculous thing was after spending days looking at the cards I didn’t find anything I could identify as being his. So I had a blank #1. I thought I had been following his art closely enough over the years to be able to spot even a rogue piece of his work. But last night when the list of artists names were published with their cards it was obvious I never in a million years would have put John Squire and his cards together. They weren’t identifiable as being his. Am I wrong? I would have expected John Squire to put pen, pencil or paint to paper. It was a relief to discover these were nowhere near my radar and I hadn’t just missed them out of carelessness. Though disappointing to still be John Squire art-less.

There were 3 postcards on my list that I had put together stylistically but had no idea who they were by. I managed to get one of them, the one I was particularly charmed by for reasons I can’t articulate, it speaks to that mysterious place in me. Simon Mathers is the artist. I think he’s rad and want to know more about him. I would’ve loved to have had 2 of his pieces but I’m delighted about getting this one.

There. It’s snowing this morning. I’m glad it’s not yesterday.

Random thoughts:

* As we shared our shortlists I found that me and my neighbours in line had few favourites in common. Everyone likes something different. So, getting a piece of art you like is not out of the realm of possibility even if you don’t start queuing ridiculously early.
* Many of the high-profile artists had multiple pieces in the sale. Despite this, if you have your sights set on a Tracey Emin / Paula Rego / Anish Kapoor (respectfully, I thought his contribution was rather lame actually) / Quentin Blake / Grayson Perry / etc. you really do need to win a raffle ticket place to be one of the first 50 in line or your chance of getting one of those is greatly diminished if not vanished all together. The result is 50 randomly chosen people jumping the queue and I’m not sure how I feel about that, but at least the raffle ticket system prevents art dealers and profit-lovers from pitching tents in September in order to buy up all the big names. There go the art dealers ruining everything again.
* I wonder how many of the raffle ticket holders bought work that wasn’t by a higher profile artist?
* Following on from the chances scuppered by the 50 raffle ticket holders, I’m not even sure pitching a tent in advance would definitely help you if all you want is a big name.
* Buy what you’re attracted to, what you’d want hanging on your wall. Taking a punt on something for no other reason than you think might be by a notable artist will likely lead to disappointment. If there was one entry strategy for the sale, that would be it.
* If seems too good to be true it probably is.
* The mania of the people who took it all very seriously was incredibly tedious after several hours of standing within earshot of them. Their ambition was a total buzz kill.
* Wear / carry twice as many layers as you think you’ll need. Pack snacks.
* I highly recommend taking part, even once.
* The people running the Secret sale do a wonderful job of making it a pleasing and uncomplicated experience. But can I suggest a website with the option to view enlarged images in succession, and perhaps the ability to sort ones favourites?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Are these the most iconic RCA Secret cards ever?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am not usually prone to hyperbole but having now glanced through the results on the rca website my attention was immediately drawn to the fact that Alex Katz contributed 6 pen and ink drawings of Obama.

I'm really not sure what has drawn artists in the US to feel the need to paint, print and draw images of Obama but there is no doubt they are doing it in droves. You can't fail to see the Shepard Fairey Obama image everywhere but it is not just him, or David Choe, or Ron English even Alex Katz gets in on the show.

Combine one of America's leading contemporary artists with an already iconic subject matter and you have something really quite special. Congratulations to those people who bought these cards.

Also pictured left is the one Anish Kapoor card in the sale. A little disappointing in the end.

Anyway congrats to the college on another hugely successful sale. Well done to all the hardy folk I queued with. Hello to everyone I chatted too and thanks for all your kind feedback about the blog. I'll post my experiences of the 2008 sale when I have got feeling back in the fingers. In the meantime I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on this sale, what you got, the one that got away etc.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Wrap up warm people as it will be cold in the queue on saturday morning. Anyone with a mobile coffee/tea vender outlet will do a roaring trade on Kensington Gore this weekend :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

RCA Secret FAQ's

I've had a few questions about the sale and the buying process so thought it may be helpful to repeat a post from last year. Here ya go.

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 

Keep both eyes open!!!

See a card you really like? Keep looking at the rest, you may see another you like. Often contributors submit more than one card, and sometimes they cards are linked.

Now that you see cards 1732 and 1262, isn't it hard to not to want to keep them together?

If you never knew they were connected, do you think your opinion/feelings about each indivual card would be different?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Registration Reminder

Just a reminder that online registration for the sale finishes on 19 November 2008 so if you haven't registered yet now would be a good time. I'm not sure whether you will be able to register in person later on or not.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Viewing the cards online is a slow and frustrating process. I can only assume that the RCA Website is being hit by hundreds of eager viewers given how slowly it is working. The college may need to upgrade their server for next year's sale...

Friday, November 14, 2008

The cards are up and we are underway

All the cards are up on the rca website which is clearly getting lots of traffic as it is quite slow. So what is your favourite so far?

A few more articles about the sale have appeared over the last 24 hours as well. Will update the blog with details of those soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Article in the International Herald tribune

There has been an article published in the blog pages of the International Herald Tribune tonight! And it links to this blog. Ah, thanks guys.

Click here to read it but the text is reproduced below. Incidentally the cards featured are from previous years sales, before people get too excited.

In London, Purchase a Postcard Worth 42,000 British Pounds
Posted by Pam Kent in Local Customs, Something Different, Exhibits, London

Forty pounds might seem expensive for a postcard. But what if the postcard turns out to be an original work of art by the likes of Anish Kapoor, Yoko Ono, Olafur Eliasson, Tracey Emin, or Paula Rego? An annual fund-raising event at London’s Royal College of Art, “RCA Secret,” gives people the chance to spot the work of famous artists among 2,7000 works on postcards that are for sale. With a good eye and some patience, you may just get an incredible bargain.

RCA Secret runs from November 14th to 22nd and it works like this:

A combination of famous artists and young art students are asked to submit an original piece of work – it must be completed on a postcard and signed on the reverse, thus keeping the identity of the artist a secret until after it has been purchased. Viewing takes place at the RCA in Kensington over a week. Then, for one day only – November 22nd - all the postcards go on sale.

This event, to raise money to support fine art students at the college, was the idea of an RCA student and has been running for 15 years.

Postcards are sold on a first come, first served basis. So bargain hunters are unlikely to get the card they have set their heart on, unless they are prepared to stand in line for a long time – possibly overnight. There is a raffle for buyers to win a position in the first fifty places in the sale day queue but that is not a guaranteed option.

And you’ll have to compete with diehard contingent of about 20 people who are obsessed with the sale, have perfected their technique and come every year. One, Perry, has started his own blog. Two Damien Hirsts and a Tracey Emin are among his acquisitions in previous years. Sue Bradburn, of the RCA, told me that student and graduate artists sometimes emulate more famous artists thus making it even trickier to pick out an authentic piece by a recognized artist. So look closely before you assume a postcard with butterflies would be a Damien Hirst.

Each person is limited to purchasing 4 cards, so Ms. Bradburn recommends that buyers choose at least 50 cards to avoid disappointment. Postcards can be viewed on line at

This year contributors include not just artists but also other creative professionals: Wallace & Gromit creator, Nick Park, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, inventor James Dyson and fashion designers Paul Smith and Sonia Rykiel.

Writing in the Times of London, Grayson Perry, a regular contributor to RCA Secrets, said that “Keeping the works anonymous is a very clever idea because potential buyers have to use their own powers of discrimination….They must look at art works closely rather than read labels, a habit they might find rewarding at any exhibition.”

Cards from previous sales have made a tidy profit for their buyers. In June 2007, a Damien Hirst skull drawing from RCA Secret 2004 resold for 15,600 pounds, one Peter Doig postcard made in 2000 sold for 42,000 pounds, another for 16,250 pounds – all at Sotheby’s auctions

Do comment

Sometimes I feel like I am talking to myself on here so please do feel free to leave comments on the blog, especially now the sale is nearly upon us. You no longer need to register to leave a comment.

Also anyone who wants to write an article for the blog about anything to do with RCA Secret or their experiences of it would be very welcome.


Another article in the independent

Here is the text of an article that appears in Today's independent. Click here to read it on the site, and look at some more pics.

Can you keep a secret?

As wheelers and dealers chase signature art works at the RCA Secret Postcard sale this week, Annie Deakin spills the beans on why buying blind is the way forward

Thursday, 13 November 2008
RCA Secret Postcard Sale

There is little more seductive than a secret. Tomorrow, a long-suffering queue of eagle-eyed art enthusiasts will snake around the Royal College of Art for the 15th Secret Postcard exhibition and charity sale. Ardent punters will be fighting to buy pictures without knowing who created them.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco.

Confidentiality is enticing. For just £40, you can purchase your very own signed, limited edition artwork from a famous painter, illustrator, designer or student. It isn’t until the postcard is purchased that the buyer sees the signature on the reverse and discovers who created their artwork. Amongst the artists and designers who have contributed 2,700 postcards are Tracey Emin, Yoko Ono, Paula Rego, David Bailey, Manolo Blahnik, James Dyson and Paul Smith. Many others will be by amateur students.

The concept of buying design without knowing the creator is appealing. Our judgment is more laudable without being biased to a designer’s reputation and being brainwashed by publicity.

It would be more interesting (and candid) to judge products prior to knowing their label. For example, I wonder if the hot seat of the season, fashion designer Orla Kiely’s Cork Easy chair would get half the publicity was it not upholstered in her trademark handbag prints.

Every year, I’m tempted to snaffle a £40 "secret postcard" charmed by the affordability and the sense of buying design without discerning its origin. For it to be worth zillions would be an added bonus - four years ago, one postcard by Hirst was auctioned at Sotheby’s for £15,600 - but extraneous to riches, nameless design is inherently appealing.

There is a magic about buying design from the bottom of your heart, untainted by commercialism of the intellectual prattle or critics. TV presenter Michael Parkinson encapsulates, "I’ve always been interested in art without really knowing what I was doing."

Discovering an unknown designer is akin to finding out about a secret. Just as when a friend spills the beans on gossip, it’s exhilarating learning about the unknown. The art world isn’t all that different to the design industry. Just as Charles Saatchi can catapult an unfamiliar artist into stardom, a big retailer propels unidentified designers into the mainstream.

Every year, for the Eureka Design Awards, six or so British companies are matched to fledgling designers who wouldn’t have otherwise encountered each other. The result is innovative merchandise sold in stores like Paul Smith, The Conran Shop and John Lewis. From being underground, undiscovered designers, they instantaneously become all the rage - and ones to watch.

Last month, I met this year’s Eureka Design winner Miranda Watkins who created the gleam pewter collection for AR Wentworth. Since the award, Watkins features in every magazine I open - Wallpaper, House and Garden, Homes and Gardens, Living Etc, Grand Designs, Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, Stella, Financial Times, The Observer Magazine? The secret is out. Almost overnight, Watkins became the most sought after designer in town - and the name to know. Were she to doodle over a RCA postcard, it could be worth a small fortune.

The Japanese/ British designer Reiko Kaneko, previously an industry secret, is the name on everyone’s lips this November. Kaneko’s surreal drip candlesticks and fighting soldier egg cups are popular but her real coup has been her fine bone china Christmas baubles which feature the reflection of reindeers, cats or dogs. Tipped to be a bestseller, her playful baubles, available on, will adorn the hippest Christmas trees. No longer an almost covert operation, Kaneko’s products have besieged the high street.

This week’s RCA Secret sale allows the hoi polloi to afford original art and lets them buy into the dream of owning a masterpiece. But it also reminds us that design should be taken at face value and not as a result of the signature on the reverse. Professor Glynn Williams, Head of Fine Art at the RCA said of the sale, "It’s one of the most democratic art sales in the world - everyone has an equal chance of getting a big name."

A tiny handful of those who snap up a £40 RCA postcard this week may luck out and profit financially from their purchase. But ultimately this sale is a lottery - you may make a quick buck by acquiring celebrity art or discovering a new artist’s work. The fun is on singling out authentic designs without the advice of critics and the prior knowledge of the artist’s identity. Design ignorance is bliss.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paula Rego named as contributor

Paula Rego has been named as a contributor to this year's sale in an article on the sky arts site. No mention of Hirst or Hockney though which makes me think that, despite previous reports, they have not contributed to the sale this year. Click here to read it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grayson Perry in The Times

Here is a nice piece that is in the Times today with Grayson Perry's take on RCA Secret. Click here to read the article which includes pictures of some more cards in the show.

Grayson Perry on designing a postcard for the RCA Secret

Designing a postcard for Royal College of Art's Secret show should be easy, but it is much more than a casual scribble

I get asked to contribute artworks to charity auctions or do a drawing for a worthy campaign about once a week. Sometimes artists are seen as being able to print money. I give to quite a lot of them but I can suffer from charity fatigue. I am always delighted, though, to contribute to the RCA Secret show, now in its 15th year, in which artists donate postcard-sized works anonymously, and all are sold for £40 each. The money goes into a bursary fund to help to support the RCA's fine-art students.

Keeping the works anonymous is a very clever idea because potential buyers have to use their own powers of discrimination. They cannot rely on brand names for validation. They must look at the artworks closely rather than read the labels, a habit I suggest that they might find rewarding at any exhibition. I have contributed a few cards for the past five years. I don't go out of my way to disguise my works as I think it is nice for the buyers to have a characteristic drawing.

Giving artworks to good causes highlights the artist's ability magically to transform cheap materials into something worth money. I call this gift/curse Picasso Napkin Syndrome (or PNS) after Pablo's habit of paying for meals with a doodle. One aspect of having the Midas-like touch of PNS is that I find myself agonising over a tiny, seemingly inconsequential, drawing because there is the strong possibility that at some point it is going to be in the focus of the public eye. Creativity demands a relaxed fluency but I find my artistic sphincter nipping up at the thought that some casual scribble of mine will be exposed to the scrutiny of connoisseurship or be judged harshly in the saleroom. So I stare pathetically at the blank postcards with all the intensity of Michelangelo, chisel in hand, squaring up to a block of marble.

Sadly an artist's ability to transform base cardboard into gold can attract scammers. Shortly after RCA Secret one year I received a letter from a woman saying that she had queued for the sale with her autistic son. Her son, she said, was a great fan of my work and he was bitterly disappointed that they were unable to secure one of my postcards. She sent me some of his repetitive scribbles as evidence of his condition and his love of art. She asked if I could find space in my heart for her son and do a drawing just for him. I'm an innocent soul and I was touched. My heart curiously hardened when a few days later I received a near identical letter from a different name and address.

I thought that someone with the ability to come up with such an elaborate scam should do well as a contemporary artist.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Hirst this year?

Has Damien Hirst contributed to the sale this year?

Early articles which appeared in the independent and the evening standard referred to Damien Hirst as a contributor to the sale BUT more recent articles have not mentioned Hirst as a contributor. Nor has the RCA press release. So will Damien be there? I guess we will know this friday.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Article in the Evening Standard

Tonight's evening standard has a piece about the show if you want to pick it up on the way home. Alternatively you can click here or read the text below.

Yours for £40 ... and it could be a Tracey Emin
Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent

Yoko Ono, Tracey Emin and photographer David Bailey have created new works to help future artists.

All three have contributed an original piece of art on a postcard for sale in the Royal College of Art's annual Secret exhibition, which raises money for bursaries to the college.

The secret is that only after you have paid £40 for your card of choice do you discover the identity of its maker on the back.

Each visitor can buy up to four from the 2,700 on display on a first-come, first-served basis. It means with a keen eye and a bit of luck you could pick up originals by, for example, four different Turner Prize winners for £160.

Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor, Douglas Gordon and Grenville Davey are the award-winning quartet.

More than 1,000 creatives, including shoemaker Manolo Blahnik, fashion designers Sonia Rykiel and Paul Smith, and architect Will Alsop, have also turned their hand to the task.

Illustrator Quentin Blake, Clash guitarist-turned-painter Paul Simonon, Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park and singer Holly Johnson are on the list. Or you could end up with a piece by Olafur Eliasson, designer of the Weather Project in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, veteran American artist Alex Katz or designer James Dyson.

Wilhelmina Bunn, the curator, said: "People are very keen to do it. It's quite hard for people like Manolo Blahnik because they're all over the place, but they do.

"They want to support it because the money goes to the fine art students' bursary fund for those who perhaps couldn't come to the Royal College otherwise."

However, purchasers could find themselves with a work by an unknown - though potential star of the future - as the current crop of 160 students also submit pieces.

The purchases could prove a shrewd investment. A postcard by Peter Doig bought in 2000 later sold at Sotheby's for £42,000.

The works cover all disciplines taught at the RCA from painting to sculpture and ceramics. It means some cards are three-dimensional. All will go on show at the RCA in Kensington Gore from 14 to 21 November. The sale will take place on 22 November from 8am until 6pm.

Visitors to the exhibition can take part in a £1-a-ticket raffle to win one of the first 50 places in the now-traditional queue on sale day. The cards will also be available to view online.

About 3,000 visitors turned up for the sale last year. More than £1million has been raised for the bursary fund since the first Secret show in 1994.

Monday, November 03, 2008

College to sell 2700 cards for RCA Secret 2008

According to the NME the college will be exhibiting 2700 cards this year. Click here to read the full story.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Anish Kapoor this year

According to this RCA press release Anish Kapoor will be contributing to this years sale, amongst many others.

Leading artists and designers from around the world including Yoko Ono, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin have contributed to this year’s RCA Secret postcard exhibition and fundraising sale taking place at the Royal College of Art in London from 14–22 November.

RCA Secret is one of the UK’s most distinctive art events and was the brainchild of an RCA student in 1994 to help raise funds for the fine art students. The idea was simple — ask famous artists and young art students to submit an original piece of art with just two rules — the art work must be completed on a postcard and it must be signed on the reverse, keeping the artists’ identity a secret. All cards are sold in a one-day sale to the public with each card costing just £40 each.

Fifteen years later, RCA Secret has grown in popularity and now has over 1,000 artists donating to the event each year. Amongst the artists and designers who have contributed nearly 2,000 postcards to this year’s event include Tracey Emin, Yoko Ono, Anish Kapoor, David Bailey, Grayson Perry, Olafur Eliasson, former Clash member Paul Simonon, Wallace & Gromit creator Nick Park, sculptor Richard Wilson, inventor James Dyson and the fashion designers Paul Smith and Sonia Rykiel. More names will be announced soon.

Professor Glynn Williams, Head of Fine Art at the RCA said:

“We are incredibly pleased and grateful with this year’s contributions by some of the world’s leading artists and designers. RCA Secret is about securing the future for the next generation of artists and by coming to buy postcards at the event the public are helping to make this possible.”

The format stays the same with the postcards exhibited in the RCA galleries and on-line from 14 to 21 November. Then for one day only on 22 November, all the postcards will go on sale for the incredibly low price of just £40 each. Postcards can only be bought on a first come, first served basis, with no sealed bids or reservations in advance. There will also be a raffle for buyers to win a position in the first fifty places of the sale-day queue.

Since 1994, thousands of art lovers have had the opportunity to buy original works of art at an affordable price whilst helping to support young artists.

Small art in the standard on Wednesday

Here is a small article that appeared in the evening standard on Wednesday.

Buy Hirst art for £40 ... if you're lucky
Amar Singh
22.10.08 AN EXHIBITION that gives art lovers the chance to buy a Tracy Emin, David Bailey, Yoko Ono or Damien Hirst for just £40 returns next month.

The Royal College of Art's annual Secret show will see more than a thousand postcard-sized works sold to help raise funds for students.

Some are by leading artists and others are by RCA graduates but the creator's name will only be revealed after the postcard is purchased. On Monday a Peter Doig postcard bought in 2000 was sold at Sotheby's for £16,250.

They can be seen in the RCA galleries and online from 14 to 21 November.

On 22 November, all go on sale for one day only. Others contributing this year include fashion designers Paul Smith and Sonia Rykiel, architect Will Alsop, inventor James Dyson, animator Nick Park and graphic designer Milton Glaser.

Professor Glynn Williams, head of fine art at the RCA, said: "It's one of the most democratic art sales in the world."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The lure of the sale

What makes the RCA secret sale so special? Why do so many people queue for so long to buy these little pieces of art?

I’ve pondered this for a while now and come up with a list of reasons, see what you think

1. Variety

Not only is this the spice of life but also it truly means there is something for everyone at the RCA secret sale. If your thing is a pretty watercolour of flowers then there are cards for you. If conceptual art is more to your taste then again there is something that you will fall in love. Virtually all artistic styles and all contemporary genres are represented in the sale. Frankly if you can’t find something you like then you don’t like art.

2. The guessing game

A lot of people in the queue will protest that they don’t care who designed the card that they buy, they buy cards that they like. Of course you should buy what you like. But even if you do there is still that moment when you turn the card over and find out who did it. And I defy anyone not to have butterflies in their stomach when they are doing that. And if the card that you bought because you liked it turns out to be by a well known artist or celebrity then even better.

3. The research

One of the great things about RCA secret is that it introduces you to artists and styles that you may never have heard of. It’s so exciting to turn over the card, see a name that means nothing to you, to then go back and google and find out more about the artist and what he or she does. A few years ago my other half saw some cards she really liked at the sale. Unfortunately by the time I got to the front of the queue they had gone. But I found out the name of the artist who did them – Moira McNair – and then contacted her. In the end I ended up buying two pieces of art from her, and we still to this day we still occasionally exchange emails.

4. Friendship

A personal reason to me perhaps but through RCA secret I have met many people, all of whom are fascinating to talk to and many of whom have now become good friends. Very few of my other friends or work colleagues have any interest in contemporary art and so it is great to exchange emails and meet up with those who do.

5. Value

I did wonder about putting this in at all. But given that you cannot have a conversation with a non art lover without this thorny question coming up I suppose we have to address it. I don’t think that actually that many people do queue for the potential value of the pieces. I think this is for two reasons: firstly that very few of the cards are actually sold after the sale. There are a few that have come on to the secondary market but not many. The second reason is that I am not convinced that the cards have an enormous value. Sure there are the examples of the odd card that has done well in the secondary market – cards by Damien Hirst and Peter Doig in particular – but the majority make nothing like that. Even cards by well known artists rarely make £200 on ebay, and many have failed to sell at auction.

6. The college

Seriously I couldn’t think of a better venue for the sale. When you bear in mind the fact that the college are not a commercial organisation the way they run the sale is exemplary. The cards are now professionally photographed and on the website the day the sale opens (no mean feat given the number of them). The college are always a pleasure to deal with when attending the viewings. And then you have the sale date itself. Given the number of people who queue and the inevitable squabbles that break out in the queue you really have to take your hat off to the way in which the sale day is organised. Commercial galleries could learn a lot from the way that the college organises itself.