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 K├Âmives
(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.

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