Saturday, December 26, 2009

In the frame

I couldn't wait to frame up my cards from this year and get them on the wall. Some cards were sent to Gary at photography framing (see my earlier post re his framing details) and some have gone to John Jones in Islington. The ones from John Jones won't be back until the middle of january (pics to follow) but here are some pics of the cards I got framed by Gary. The specifications for these are that they are all framed floated surrounded by a thick off-white archival mount. They have perspex on the back to show the name and signature of the artist and are topped off with Museum glass.

I've gone for some different frames but I like em, although I appreciate they won't be everyone's cup of tea.

Two of the cards are cards I got this year, 2 are cards my daughters got this year for their rooms and 2 are previous years cards.

Merry christmas to all readers. I hope santa sent you lots of art related presents.

Pierce Casey

Graham Crowley

Louise Edgington

Maggi Hambling

Pauline Place

Carol Robertson

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

RCA Secret and ebay

It's good to see that you don't get many cards hitting ebay after the sale. At the moment there is only one Jacqueline Perkin card from this year on the bay, finishing tonight and doing quite well.

Although there have been a few old cards on the bay in the last few weeks, and this Terry Setch card is doing quite well.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My RCA Secret 2009

This year the college announced some huge names had contributed to sale. I was very excited when I heard that names such as Gerhard Richter, John Baldessari and Bill Viola had donated. The sale has always been strong on contributors from these shores, but these international cards put the sale, in my opinion, on an even higher level.

So the weeks before the sale were spent researching last year's cards and this years contributors and posting updates on the blog of articles in the media about the sale, and other little titbits.

It ought to be noted that the art world lost some huge names this year, many of whom had regularly contributed to RCA Secret in the past including: Donald Hamilton-Fraser, Frederick Gore, Flavia Irwin and, most recently Christo's wife and partner Jeanne-Claude. May they all rest in peace.

Eventually Friday 13th November came round and the cards were released on the internet by the college promptly just before 11am. Due to being crazy busy at work I didn't get much chance to look at them properly until the weekend. I went down the exhibition on the Sunday and bought some raffle tickets and had my first look at the cards in person, whilst my two wonderful daughters made their own lists of the cards they wanted.

The weather for the week of the sale was horrendous. Some areas of the country were flooded and there was torrential rain in London on Wednesday and Thursday nights. I wasn't looking forward to a potential soaking on the Friday night.

As it was we were relatively lucky with the weather. I woke up on Friday and the skies were very grey and it was raining. I collected my stuff together and made my way to the college that morning. I arrived and shortly after installed my new pop-up tent, an early birthday present from my brother, and considerably easier to put up than my previous tent which was getting just a little frayed round the edges having endured a few years of battering on the streets of Kensington.

John had arrived about 40 minutes before me and was therefore directly ahead of me in the queue. A little while later Adam arrived and then after that the rest of our informal "crew" – Chris and Hugh. Mark, a friend and colleague from work, also joined our band of intrepid overnighters.

A happy morning was spent browsing the cards and refining choices. I never fail to be amazed that every time I look at the cards I spot a new one I feel I had never seen before. Lunch followed in Wagamamas followed by more browsing of the cards in the afternoon and chatting to people in queue. Plus a few work-related phone calls during the course of the day which were most off-putting.

Anyway the time came for us to be turfed out of the sale and we then spent the next hour clutching our phones hoping for that elusive phone call from the college. Gradually the phones started ringing. John got the call, as did his wife we later found out. Also news filtered down that various people higher up the queue had got the call. I don't wish to moan as I've always done well from the sale but I haven't ever got the call and would love to enjoy the raffle experience once!

We then had a couple of quick beers and a pizza. It was good to meet Cade at that stage after exchanging emails with him on quite a few occasions. Check out Cade's blog for some pictures of some of the amazing cards he has got over the years.

Anyway after a bit more chatting it was time to settle down for the night. I think because the weather was extremely mild I got more than usual amount of sleep, about 4 hours I think, although I apologise to my "next door neighbours" for snoring! There was some rain during the night but it was not nearly as bad as the previous two nights (or indeed the Saturday).

Anyway by around 4.45am I was awake and unable to go back to sleep for thinking about my list and making last minute adjustments and amendments. So I had a cup of hot chocolate, swiftly followed by a coffee to wake me up, listened to a bit of music on my daughter's iPod, borrowed for the night, and scratched away at my list.

The tent city started packing up early this year as it became apparent that by six in the morning the queue had completely double-backed on itself and was back in front of the college. You can imagine the chaos between those in the first part of the queue and those in the second part, so we packed up our stuff and moved up quickly to form the queue on the disabled ramp to the side of the college. This meant that the second part of the queue moved off quickly thus averting catastrophe.

Inevitably there were a couple of queue bargers who categorically refused to move until security came out and moved them on. Thanks to the security personnel at the college who handled these potentially difficult situations in a sensible and calm way. Thanks also to the college for keeping open, throughout the night, the toilets at the back entrance to the college. It made a huge difference to the people queuing and hopefully stopped some of the insanitary practices the college have rightfully complained about in the past.

The lucky raffle winners were in and out before us so I saw John coming out as he told me that he had scored 2 Grayson Perry cards and 2 cards by Mary Fedden. So well done him.

Finally it came to the time for us to go down to the room with the screens. I always find this a nerve racking experience to put it mildly. The room has two screens mounted which cycle through the cards that have been sold but frankly it is very difficult to cross off that many cards before you hit the front. You have to try and look round people's heads and the numbers cycle through very quickly.

I still don't understand why the college deal with all the raffle winners first before we are allowed down. Surely it would be better just to let the rest of the queue go down and go to the rear of the raffle winners? This would give us more time to cross off cards from our list and mean that the queues speed up. For the same reason can I suggest that the college consider mounting the same screen either just outside the college (if possible) or alternatively just as you get inside the doors?

In any event by the time I got to the front of the queue I had only had time to cross about 10 cards off my list. I started off reading out numbers to the very friendly lady behind the till – After a constant stream of "no, not available" I started getting a few numbers that were available. I actually changed my mind about one number that was available, deciding in the end to go for something else.

A tip at this stage. When you have your four numbers. Breathe. Relax. Go through them again and make sure there are no mistakes and that they are the numbers you want. After that there is no going back.

Anyway payment was made and off I went back upstairs and presented my invoice to a runner to get my cards. She called me over to the packing area, asked me to confirm my cards were the ones I wanted and then packed them away in envelopes. As she did so she asked me how long I had been queuing for. When I told her she said something along the lines of "I'm sure you will think it was worth it". That was my first hint that a might have got something a bit special.

I opened my envelopes and the first one I opened was a pretty drawing of a shoe. Not only has this been one of my daughters' favourite cards but I also had a sneaky feeling it might be by Grayson Perry, as there were plenty of frills on it and the bow was very expansive. So I was absolutely delighted when I turned it over to see that it was indeed by Grayson Perry. I let out a shriek of delight and punched the air.

The next card I opened was an abstract in oils. As soon as I had heard that Gerhard Richter was a contributor I spent a long time researching his work and trying to work out what he had done in the sale. I exchanged views with a few friends and then had my eureka moment one morning when I had woken up early with the kids and had gone through the cards on the internet systematically just trying to identify the Richters. But his work is diverse that I was by no means certain. I needed to buy a card that I liked and would be a proud addition to my collection even if it wasn't by Richter.

As you can imagine I was therefore delighted when I turned over my card and revealed that my research (and guesswork) had indeed paid off. I was now the proud owner of a Gerhard Richter abstract. I couldn't believe it. I sank to my knees, shouted out "yes" and punched the air. I couldn't stop shaking for at least 10 minutes afterwards.

I was also very pleased with my other two cards - abstracts by Carol Robertson, an artists I have long-admired, and another abstract by Pierce Casey. They will all be framed shortly.



The next few minutes passed in a haze of an interview and photographs with the independent, and chats with others about what they had got, the ones that got away etc.

All in all a fantastic and very special experience for me and one I will never forget. I know I am a bit obsessional about RCA secret but it gives me and others like me a chance to buy the art we love at a price we can afford. I love the whole event and am most grateful to the college and all the contributing artists for making it so special.

Jules' story

Here is Jules' story of her RCA secret night, as first published in her blog Girl on the Side.

Yesterday was the date I’d been excited about for the past 12 months & had spent the past week doing lists on Microsoft Excel for: The RCA Secret.

Recalling how busy it was last year (and the fact that I’m still not ready for camping), I’d decided that arriving earlier this time would be for the best… and indeed it was. I convinced The Boy (who was an RCA virgin) that leaving the house just after was not insane & would be worth it :) The journey wasn’t bad at all: managed not to stuff up leaving early like I did last year, and night-bused it all the way.

Arriving at the RCA, the 1st thing you noticed was the length of the queue: It had only just hit, and it had already gone beyond that nook in Jay Mews I joined last year when I arrived at 6am… and was steadily approaching the Gore. Walking along, and noticing a lot more tent action this year, we joined the end of the line – which at this point was just on the corner of the Mews. The same steps were taken again: warm clothing, a flask of hot coffee & something to eat. I was worried that being there earlier & queuing for longer would mean being frozen by 8am – luckily the weather was a lot milder this time… although still nippy! A nice element about this though are the people you instantly get chatting to, as everyone is in the same frame of mind about the queue & the weather. This year a new “queuing buddy” was made in Stewart – a very nice bloke who was in front of us & even offered me his chair to sit on during our hours outside :)

At 06:56 there was a sudden surge in the line and we all began moving forwards. I was surprised by this, as the doors weren’t open yet – can only assume that it was the tents all waking up and packing away (?)… either way, we were moving along pretty quick, which was a good feeling.

By 8a.m: we’d already moved up to the side of the RCA entrance, which was super-early compared to last year. This is where I spotted a familiar face: Wayne Chisnall was back! As he said on his blog, he was planning something for the morning & for the 2nd time in a row, I managed to catch it. He was giving out 400 numbered & signed screen printed postcards he’d made, as a “thank you” to those queuing up for the sale in the Cold. As with last year, I’d not even made it into the RCA, and had a lovely piece of art to add to my collection… so “thank you” Wayne :)

08:30 a.m & we were in already… confirming that being an earlier bird than last year does make a difference. It was a return to that excited & nervous feeling again: shuffling through the white building, eager to get down the steps… almost desperate to see the TV screens telling us what was available & what had gone. The panic of papers being flicked through and the sound of pens scribbling out choices lost, were all you could hear once you got to the basement. People were crowding around the 2 TV screens (while still trying to move along the queue) in order to check their choices. The only gripe that I had with the screens this year is that one of them wasn’t working , or the screen wasn’t big enough: only the top half of the bottom row of cards was showing, so you’d constantly miss the cards / numbers :(

Anyway… I got to the cashier, gave her 3 card numbers from my list that were still available on the screen… & they were still there – result! The Boy and I were both done by 10a.m, and walked away with cards from both our lists that we wanted… at some point, The Boy may blog about his – but as an RCA Virgin, he managed to walk away with an interesting name in his envelope…

So, the end results for me?

Full set of pictures are avaliable to view on my Flickr set, here.

I’ll certainly be back again next year… see you then

Monday, November 23, 2009

Framing offer

So you have your precious cards now and you want to get them framed. As I've got more and more into art I have realised the crucial importance that a good framing job can do for your piece of art.

Also you need to ensure that your art is conserved properly, without the risk of it being damaged by the framing process or by harmful UV rays etc.

Any good art framer should be able to give you chapter and verse about the frames they use, the mounts, the type of glass, the methods of fixing the artwork to the mounts etc etc. Make sure you ask lots of questions to ensure that the framer knows what he is doing and knows that your artwork is important to you, and possibly quite valuable.

If you are keen to ensure that your artwork is framed well and that it is done to conservation standards then I have negotiated a deal with a well known framers for readers of the blog.

Gary at photography framing has been framing a large amount of my stuff for a few years now (see pics of last years cards). The service is excellent. He has regular collection and deliveries in the south-east (and sometimes further afield) so you just book a slot with him. He will arrange to collect the artwork from you then will either phone you or email you to discuss framing options. You can have anything from the standard white or black box frame through to some really wacky mouldings indeed if you are feeling brave.

Once the work is framed gary will arrange to deliver it back to you. Perfect.

The special price offered to readers of the blog is:

Full conservation standard framing
Perspex and mount on the back of the frame so you can see the signature
A range of frame choices
UV Glass - £75 including VAT.

If you would like Museum glass (which is non-reflective and really worth the extra cost) then the cost is £120 including VAT.

Just email with your requirements, mentioning the RCA secret blog.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

UcanBeverywhere's story

Here's an account of from the ucanbeverywhere blog. Click here for the blog and more pics :)

To obtain a Postcard-sized work of art from RCA Secret I queued for more than five hours!
It was a thrilling adventure indeed.... and I am extremely happy since I managed to get two postcard-sized works of art from Hugh Fleetwood and Andrew Fionda! The competition was great! It was actually more than great and people were camping for days before even the event was launched in order to safeguard a good place in the queue.
I tried my best to safeguard a good place in the queue... and wasn't that bad in the end!
The event only started at 8 o'clock this morning and I got there at 6 in the morning! I only managed to get inside at noon and even if most of the famous artists cards were already gone, I got two just by having a final quick glimpse since those that I had in my list were sold!
I enjoyed this fabulous art experience and I have some pictures for you to enjoy!
Well done to all of those 'Gladiators' that got their favorite ones .... RCA Rocks!

Sale piece in the independent on sunday this morning

There is a fun article in the independent on sunday this morning here.

Full text reproduced below

Postcard art: Having a cool time. Wish you were here

A Slice of Britain: At the annual lucky dip for postcards by famous and emerging artists, the sharp-eyed and patient scoop up bargain masterpieces

By Andrew Johnson at the Royal College of Art

Sunday, 22 November 2009

They don't look much like contemporary art-lovers. There are no sharp suits, silly haircuts or bold spectacle frames. Instead, the queue snaking outside the Royal College of Art (RCA) is made up of a motley group – bleary-eyed and unshaven – dressed in woolly jumpers and waterproof jackets.

They are there for the annual lucky dip. The prestigious college asks around 1,000 artists – from the famous to recent graduates – to donate up to six postcards of new work. Art-lovers can buy no more than four, at £40 each. The catch is that no one knows the name of their artist until after they have bought the work.

This year's coup was Gerhard Richter. The German, considered one of the world's greatest artists, painted six cards in his distinctive blurred abstract style. Other sought-after names included Grayson Perry, Anish Kapoor and Tracey Emin.

"Whatever happens, your work will be worth £40," says the sale's curator, Wilhelmina Bunn.

The doors open at dawn, and 50 raffle winners are given first dibs. Next come die-hard regulars, who have learnt that if you want to buy a contemporary great for peanuts, it's the very early bird who gets the work. By 7am the queue is wrapped around the RCA building in Kensington. Inside the RCA's white halls, it snakes across the wooden flooring and continues down a set of stairs past giant TV screens that reveal which works have gone and which are still available.

Buyers are busy scribbling in their notebooks as they try to keep up with the changing stock. Eventually, the queue winds its way to a cashier, who checks your choice is still available, takes your money, and gives you a form to take upstairs to the main gallery. There, rows and rows of postcards with a multitude of designs – drawings, paintings, photographs, inscriptions and collages – are mixed in with plain green cards to replace those that have been sold.

Chris and Gayle Corbett camped out and managed to be fifth in the queue. "We've been here for two and a half days," says Chris. "We love art. There's lots of people here during the night. You make friends, order a pizza, have a drink." They are hoping for a Nick Park or Tracey Emin. Their ritual, however, is not to open their envelope until after they've nipped off for a big breakfast. Others take their envelopes outside and open them immediately, frequently to squeals of delight.

Like hordes of others lining up for a card at the sale they had to register online first. Perry Hill, a solicitor, is in his 10th year at the sale, and very chuffed to find himself with a Grayson Perry drawing of a shoe as well as a Richter. "I thought it might be by Grayson because of the bow," he says. "I just love the sale. It's a real opportunity for people like me who can't afford to buy the artists that we like, to own their stuff."

Ms Bunn registered 5,000 new people for the sale this year, 2,000 more than normal. Some 14,000 had already registered over the sale's 16-year history. "There's 2,700 cards and we normally sell them all," she says. "Not everyone turns up and not everyone buys four. We invite around 3,500 artists and this year 1,016 agreed. I first asked Richter in 2007, and his studio said he would be interested but was busy. I never let go. He couldn't do it last year, but this year he painted six, and sent a note saying it was a great project."

By 1pm the queue is shorter, although latecomers are still tagging on. The last person – for now – is Heather Broughton who has travelled from Leicester. "There is something very British about queueing," she says. "I'm not bothered about anyone famous: it's about the future. I work for a museum in Leicestershire, which has been buying new art to loan to schools for 50 years. It now has work by people like Bridget Riley and David Hockney."

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime of queuing, The Independent on Sunday gets to buy a work. It's by the Welsh artist Carwyn Evans. By now Chris Corbett has had plenty of time to savour his purchase. He calls, having finished a leisurely breakfast, to reveal the couple's days of vigil has been rewarded with a card by the fashion designer Manolo Blahnik. His tone bears the quiet satisfaction of a modest lottery winner. "We're very pleased," he says simply.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Artists Names are all up now

The artists names are now all up on the rca site, as usual a few surprises and interesting ones.

I hope everyone had a great time and got what they wanted, I know I did.

Over the coming days I will posting peoples experiences of the sale day and their stories, including my own. If you've got a story you would like to contribute then please let me know, by commenting on the blog. Would be great to hear from you.

I will also be publishing details of a special framing offer I have negotiated for all our readers should you want to get your cards framed as I am sure you will.

I will sleep well tonight though.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good luck all

Very best of luck to everyone tomorrow in the raffle and on Saturday in the sale. I've never won the raffle, maybe this year will be my year. Who knows. But whoever wins I hope you get the cards you want and that you have a fabulous time. And do feel free to come and say hello. I should be somewhere near the front of the queue and would love to meet you. Just don't wake me up if I'm asleep ;)

RCA Secret invaded by Eels

London based street artist Eel performed a Banksy style stunt yesterday when his placed his own contribution to the sale onto the wall making it card number "240.5". Some photos of the stunt on Eel's flickr.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How are you getting along?

So how is everyone doing with their secret postcard spotting. Have you made your lists? Entered the raffle? Got your warm clothes out of the cupboard? Dusted down that thermos flask you haven't used since last year? Only a few days until the sale now.

In the meantime to keep you going, the independent published an article today. Click here to read but the full text is reproduced below.

Getting lucky at auction

The biggest art lucky dip including Paul Smith and Bill Viola opened on 'Friday the 13th'

By Annie Deakin

RCA Secret art postcard sale: a grown-up's game of lucky dip

Last week, we had "Friday the 13th", the alleged unluckiest day of the year and also the day that RCA Secret, the country’s biggest art lucky dip opened online and at RCA. The question of luck keeps following us around us this month; firstly the lottery jackpot winners, then the superstitious date and now the artistic gamble of sorts.

RCA Secret really is a grown-up’s game of lucky dip. Buyers choose and pay for a piece of art unsure of its actual financial worth. Rather like grabbing the object that "feels" like it has the most potential in a barrel of sawdust, buyers will queue at RCA to buy artwork without knowing who it is created by (and hence, its financial value). The auction, when each piece of postcard-sized art sells for £40, is a one-day-sale on 21 November. As luck would have it, several of the art in the auction is is by very collectable artists, designers, the rest are by up-and-coming RCA students. But buyers only get to see the signature on the reverse once they've paid up. Choosing your artwork is a healthy gamble.

Not only does this affordable art initiative raise huge sums for money every year – it is in aid of the Royal College of Art’s Fine Art Student Award Fund, it also allows the masses to enter into dreaming of owning masterpieces. This year, 1,016 contributors, including Yoko Ono, David Bailey, Bill Viola, Paul Smith and James Dyson (and many illustrious RCA alumni), have donated 2,700 postcard-sized pieces of art.

Most buyers treat RCA Secret as a lottery of sorts; if they can hunt down a piece by one of the celebrated artists, it may well be worth thousands. A watercolour postcard by fashionable British artist Peter Doig was bought at RCA Secret in 2000 for £40 and recently auctioned for £42,000 at Sotheby's. A postcard featuring a drawing of a skull by Damien Hirst was sold for £15,600 in 2004. Lucky buyers.

An understanding of the artists' style may help buyers choose their work meaning that it is not just a question of luck. Yet what makes this annual event retain its charm is that even to industry experts, it remains a guessing game. Contributor and fashion designer Paul Smith says of this year's entries, "I've been trying to identify who some of them might be by, the funny Biro drawing of the dog and the lady I think could be Paula Rego. I don't like the spooky ones, such as the flying skull, which I imagine is probably by the Chapman Brothers. That's the sort of thing they do. And the boy in the cage reminds me of them too — I wouldn't want either of those, except as an investment!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wayne Chisnall plans a surprise for people in the queue

Contributor to the show Wayne Chisnall is, according to his blog, planning a little surprise for us hardened queuers. I met wayne last year outside the college, as he also came along to the sale day. A top bloke.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Some good photos on the Guardian Website

Hope everyone is enjoying looking through the cards and starting to make their lists. I hope to make it down to the college to see the cards in person shortly. In the meantime here is a link to some great pics on the guardian website.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Big article in today's Times

There is a very interesting piece in todays Times. Click here for the article, full text reproduced below.

It’s the RCA Secret: a masterpiece for 40 quid
The Royal College of Art is offering 2,700 postcard-sized artworks for £40 each. Here we give a sneak preview

The art world isn’t known for its bargains. Even in a year when recession has dominated headlines, auction houses everywhere have been raking in the cash. This week at Christie’s Peter Doig’s Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like), sold for $10.2 million (almost £6 million). It’s not what you’d call affordable.

But there is one way of getting your hands on a piece by one of the biggest names in art, without robbing a bank. RCA Secret is an annual fundraising exhibition in aid of the Royal College of Art; this year it has 2,700 postcard-sized works donated by 1,016 artists and designers. Donors range from established artists such as Yoko Ono, Gerhard Richter, Bill Viola, David Bailey and designers Paul Smith and James Dyson, to up-and-coming RCA students. Each postcard is for sale at £40 — but until you’ve bought it, you won’t know the name of the artist. Will your £40 just buy a nice picture, or will you bag the biggest art bargain of the year?

Tomorrow, the RCA reveals all the postcards at the exhibition and online, before the big sale on November 21. Here though, we have a sneak preview. We asked some artists and art-lovers to take a look and give us their verdicts.

Grayson Perry, artist

I’ve put in a few postcards this year; I never try to disguise mine because it’s nice for people to be able to run in and grab them if they want one. I do the sketch I would have been doing at that moment, but I just do it on the postcard, so if I’ve got a project on the go, quite often the postcard shows things I might not bring to fruition until years later.

One of my early postcards had my idea for the fourth plinth on it. It was called God for a Day, and it was almost a version of what Antony Gormley eventually did. It was going to be a shrine, with people spending a day in it as God. I never got asked to submit so I never put it forward, but I did do a postcard of it. In my idea they would have been able to wear only the outfit I’d given them. I didn’t risk the charity T-shirt thing!

I particularly like the pink DayGlo petrol station. I think the abandoned petrol station is a lovely symbol of the modern age. There used to be ten petrol stations on my way to work and now there are two. This has that sort of Edward Hopper, road trip feeling, but there’s also something very Essex about this picture. The painter Jock McFadyen did a series of paintings of abandoned petrol stations along the A13.

The other one I like is the picture of the Queen. It’s so pedantically lame! It’s suburban and royal at the same time, which is very much what the Queen is like. It looks as if she’s wearing an M&S jumper underneath her robe.

The picture of Michael Jackson is quite challenging. It reminds me of a poster for an earnest amateur production of Cats. Michael Jackson is just beyond irony, the layers on him are just too much. If something is really so awful that you can talk about it in a lively way, then it’s not really awful. It’s those things that fall between — most bad art falls between lots of different things; it doesn’t have a strong character.

Paul Smith, fashion designer

The bright pink landscape with a shed is very painterly, and the landscape of London. I like paint, and things that are done by hand as opposed to computer generated. I like to see the brush strokes. I also like the still life of the pear and the butterfly. It reminds me of Mary Fedden, but that’s only a guess. I’ve been trying to identify who some of them might be by, the funny Biro drawing of the dog and the lady I think could be Paula Rego.

I don’t like the spooky ones, such as the flying skull, which I imagine is probably by the Chapman Brothers. That’s the sort of thing they do. And the boy in the cage reminds me of them too — I wouldn’t want either of those, except as an investment!

I’ve put a postcard or two in this year. I’ve done it for several years now, it would be nice to know where my cards have ended up. It’s a fun thing to do. You hear about people who’ve been queuing for two hours because they’ve been to the viewing and they think they’ve found a famous person’s card. They’re at prices people can afford, they’re not too precious and you’ve got the thrill or the disappointment — “Is it a Paula Rego?” “Oh! No.” Sometimes people take it all a bit too seriously though. Here, I’m surrounded by paintings, photography, books, toys, masses of stuff; some are quite precious and costly and others cost a few quid, but everything I bought just because I liked it. I’ve always thought you should just buy things because you love them.

The first piece of art I bought was in the early 1970s, when Hockney had his first solo exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. There was a limited edition print that went with it, and I just fell in love with it. My wife and I stood there and thought: “The gas bill, or the print?” And we went for the print. And a week later they came to switch the gas off. But that was my first entry into the world of art and we still enjoy it every day.

David Bailey, photographer

I chose my favourites very quickly. It’s so subjective, so I chose two which are both icons — the Queen of England and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. I like figurative art, I don’t like abstract. It looks like wallpaper. I don’t understand it. There are a few, such as Terry Frost, who make me laugh but Rothko leaves me pretty cold. But these two images tell you something immediately. You don’t need a poncey art education. Neither of them is cutting edge, but straight away you can like it.

I think you should like art. I don’t think you want to stick something on the wall that you don’t like. I never understand that. Then you get the obvious things such as Warhol, which is overattractive. You think: “Everyone likes that, it’s a sign I can afford a $20 million Marilyn Monroe.”

I do the RCA Secret show every year. Last year I put £40 on the picture, so at least whoever bought it got their money back. Every year I try to do a theme that’s different, but never photography. I was painting before I was a photographer. My postcards always go straight away, they’re never remaindered. It would be awful to find it in the Soho Bookshop or something.

John Squire, artist and former Stone Roses guitarist

My favourite is the pink scooter. It’s very simple and I trip over one regularly in my house. I’ve got three daughters who are practising hurtling round the kitchen. I like the drawing too. It’s the essence of a girlie scooter, everything’s in there, the tassels, the bell, the spokes — they do it for me.

I also like the boy in the cage. I knew exactly how he felt the day that the image arrived. But it’s actually not my second choice. That would be the Biro drawing of a woman, which I’ve been haunted by. Initially I just saw a quick blue Biro drawing then I realised that it was imbued with a great deal of menace.

I’ve donated a postcard about four times now. I think that the arts are undervalued in this country and if all it takes for me to generate money for the arts is to scribble a quick postcard then I’m happy to do it.

A. S. Byatt, novelist

I like the painting with the pear and the butterfly. It’s the right size for the postcard, and I like the way the colour is put on and the balance of the objects. I like the richness and simplicity of it. I do like still lifes, I prefer painting to photography almost always. I get more excited by seeing the movement of the hand, the colour on the surface, rather than thinking about somebody constructing it mechanically. I’m prejudiced really, I’m not offering a value judgment! I have a half idea that it might be by Eileen Cooper: she puts her colour on with a very assured, bold hand.

I’ve only identified one artist, I think, Paula Rego. It’s fairly easy, unless it’s an imitation — the one with a woman looking at a rabbit. It might be a dog but I think it’s Alice in Wonderland with the rabbit.

I can’t bear the thought of Michael Jackson, though I do think that’s rather a good picture. I don’t listen to music ever, so what I might like about him isn’t available to me! The Queen is awful. I know she’s meant to be awful but that doesn’t improve the situation.

My other favourite is the pink scooter. I like the way the wheels sit and the fact that it is pink. It’s a silly image of the predominance of pink around children the age of my grandchildren. I have a grandchild about to be born any minute who has inherited a great deal of very bright pink garments. My daughter is very busy buying things that aren’t pink. Someone once asked me to write an essay on the word “pink” because they’d noticed I used it a lot. I tend to be either repelled by or greatly attracted to things pink.

Your chance to jump the queue

All 2,700 postcards can be viewed online from 11am tomorrow at, and in an exhibition at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7, until Friday, Nov 20. They will stay online throughout the exhibition, and the sale will take place on Saturday, Nov 21, from 8am until 6pm. After the sale the names of the artists will be revealed alongside each card online.

There will be a raffle to be among the first 50 in the queue on the day of the sale. Tickets will be available at the exhibition until half an hour before closing each day. Visitors can buy up to ten tickets at £1 each. The first 50 will be notified the night before the sale. In addition, one Times+member will be allocated the 51st place in the queue — visit before 8pm on Thursday, Nov 19 to be in with a chance.

On the day of the sale the 50 raffle ticket winners and one Times+ member will be allowed in from 7am to 8am. The normal sale queue will enter at 8am. It’s advisable to get down to the RCA as early as you can but don’t worry if you can’t, there are always some cards left even in the afternoon. Last year, Yoko Ono’s card lingered until after lunch.

Our tip: Choose extra cards that you like in case your first choices have gone. Have at least 30 card numbers that you like — you never know what you’re going to get.

Monday, November 09, 2009

And an article in tonight's evening standard

No sooner was I saying that there wasn't so much press coverage for rca secret this year then not only is the telegraph getting in on the act but also the Evening Standard. Londoners can try and get hold of one to have a read but unfortunately the article isn't yet online. It also features 4 cards (including the one pictured) but they are the same as the Telegraphs.

19 Cards on the Daily Telegraph site

This card left was posted on the Daily Telegraph site today, see this and 18 others here

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Short piece in the guardian today

There's a short piece about the show in the guardian today, together with a picture of one card. Content reproduced below.

Bargain hunters get the opportunity to make a killing this week as the Royal College Of Art's Secret comes around again. This annual show invites illustrious ex-alumni and other artist well-wishers to paint on postcards, which are then sold in aid of the RCA Fine Art Student Award Fund. There is, of course, a catch. Each artwork is signed on the back, and buyers are kept in the dark about who has made the work until they've shelled out. But at £40 a pop, it's worth the risk, and those lucky enough to nab a YBA should be very pleased with themselves; a Peter Doig postcard was recently sold at Sotheby's for £42,000. Just don't forget your sleeping bag if you want to be first in line.

Royal College Of Art, SW7, exhibition Fri to 20 Nov, sale 21 Nov

Friday, November 06, 2009

Is this a year for the purists?

Just under one week to go now until the cards go online and things are pretty quiet on the publicity front. Normally by now I would have expected a few biggish features in the broadsheet press, including pictures of some of this years cards etc. Hopefully there will be some tomorrow but maybe the lack of YBA contributors - Hirst and Emin in particular - may have something to do with the lack of publicity. This doesn't bother me as I'm more than happy with the contributors that the RCA has advertised that they have, and there is bound to be more to come.

What does everyone else think? Why not leave a comment on the blog. You don't need to log in to do so and can leave it anonymously if you wish.

Friday, October 30, 2009

And a short independent article today too...

The postal strike seems to be effecting the college as well, see this short piece in the independent, text of which if below.

Artists and the Royal College of Art are among the victims of the postal strikes. Each year the RCA invites hundreds of world-renowned artists to design postcards, which are then mixed in with others by art students. The whole lot are then put on display and sold anonymously for £40 each. In the past, Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry and David Bailey have taken part. This year's Secret exhibition opens on 13 November.

But some artists' cards have not arrived at the college during the strike, while other artists have not received the postcard on which to create their artwork.

Contributors are finding ways around the problem. The designer Manolo Blahnik requested that someone from the RCA collect his contribution from his London studio. A spokeswoman confirmed that 2,000 cards had been received by the RCA, but up to 700 may still be held up in the postal backlog. "This year has been very tense for us because of the postal strike," she said.

Anish Kapoor donates again

According to the architects journal Anish Kapoor has contributed to this years show. See here for more details and some more images from the show. The article is reprinted below.

RCA Secret is an annual contemporary art exhibition and sale consisting of around 2,500 original postcard-sized artworks, made and donated by professionals - plus up-and-coming students from the Royal College of Art

The cards are all sold to the public in a huge sale on 21 November, with every postcard costing £40, regardless of whether it has been made by a famous name or a young art student.

Over 600 artists have donated work to the event so far, including Grayson Perry, Julian Opie, Yoko Ono, Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Mary Fedden, Maggi Hambling, Bruce McLean, former Stone Roses guitarist John Squire, photographers David Bailey and Richard Young. Animator Nick Park, architect David Adjaye, designers Ron Arad, Milton Glaser, Andrzej Jackowski, Margaret Calvert, as well as fashion designers Sir Paul Smith, Manolo Blahnik, Andrew Fionda and Erdem have also made cards. Many leading American artists have also contributed this year, including Bill Viola, Lawrence Weiner, John Baldessari and Alex Katz.

Postcard contributions have been delayed in reaching the College this year due to the Royal Mail postal strike.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Last Chance to View 2008 Postcards

Just to let you know that you can currently view all the work from RCA Secret 2008 until Friday 30th October, before they exit to make way for Secret 2009.

Card shown from Secret 2008 is by Lynda Gray.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Contributor News

Some more contributor news from the rca on their main news site. Some interesting names. Also three of the postcards featured.

Here is the full text

23 October: Gerhard Richter, Grayson Perry and Julian Opie are amongst the hundreds of artists to contribute to this year's RCA Secret event.

The Royal College of Art is pleased to announce that the German artist Gerhard Richter has donated work to the College’s fundraising sale, RCA Secret, for the first time. His work will be displayed anonymously amongst hundreds of other postcards made by invited artists and designers at the RCA from 13 November. All of the postcards will be sold for just £40 each in a one-day sale on 21 November. Each postcard is numbered and the public have to guess the origin of the artwork.

Richter is one of the world’s most respected living artists. His work is highly collectable, and continues to set auction room records. His Kerze (Candle) 1983, painting sold for £7.9 million in 2008, 3 times its high estimate.

Over 200 artists have donated work to the event so far, including Grayson Perry, Julian Opie, Yoko Ono, Cornelia Parker, David Bailey, former Stone Roses guitarist John Squire, designer Ron Arad, as well as fashion designers Sir Paul Smith, Manolo Blahnik and Erdem. Many leading American artists have also contributed this year including Bill Viola, Lawrence Weiner, John Baldessari and Alex Katz.

RCA Secret is an annual contemporary art exhibition and sale consisting of original postcard-sized artworks, made and donated by professional artists, designers and illustrators, plus up-and-coming students from the Royal College of Art.

What’s the Secret? Each postcard is signed on the back, so buyers don’t know the identity of the artist until they have made their purchase. Postcards can be viewed in person at the RCA or on-line at from 13-21 November. All postcards go up for sale on Saturday 21 November at the RCA.

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 in the queue.

As in previous years all monies raised goes to the Royal College of Art Fine Art Student Award Fund. To date, sales of postcards have raised over £1 million for the Fund, helping hundreds of emerging artists at a formative stage in their careers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grayson Perry also confirmed as contributor

According to the college's RCA secret facebook page Grayson Perry is also a contributor to this year's show.

Free art fair at the Barbican

I went along to the free art fair at the Barbican today and I have to say it was a very refreshing change. There were loads of people there admiring the art and some lucky folk who got to take some work away. I would have loved to have picked up a couple of them but sadly my name wasn't drawn out of the hat. Still it was a great day, fantastic idea and I take my hat off to Jasper Joffe for organising it all and remaining calm and good natured throughout the frantic period when they were drawing names.

My favourite piece was by Lee Johnson called the Magician's dummy. Not an artist I'd heard of before but I loved the painting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gerhard Richter is a contributor this year

The first contributor news comes from the college including a stella new addition to the range of RCA secret contributors - Gerhard Richter. It is a real feather in the college's cap to have an artist of such international renown. Very exciting for us punters as well. Here is the text of the college's press release:


The Royal College of Art is pleased to announce that the German artist
Gerhard Richter has donated work to the College’s fundraising sale,
RCA Secret, for the first time. His work will be displayed anonymously
amongst hundreds of other postcards made by invited artists and
designers at the RCA from 13 November. All of the postcards will be
sold for just £40 each in a one-day sale on 21 November. Each
postcard is numbered and the public have to guess the origin of the

Richter is one of the world’s most respected living artists. His work
is highly collectable, and continues to set auction room records. His
Kerze (Candle) 1983 [pictured above], painting sold for £7.9 million in 2008, 3 times
its high estimate.

Over 200 artists have donated work to the event so far, including Yoko
Ono, Cornelia Parker, Lawrence Weiner, Maggi Hambling, former Stone
Roses guitarist John Squire, as well as fashion designers Manolo
Blahnik and Erdem."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mention for RCA Secret in the Times

The Times has an article about the October art fairs and mentions the sale briefly

"Well, artists’ ephemera can be worth something if you hang onto it for long enough. Take the Royal College of Art’s annual fundraiser for emerging artists, RCA Secret (Nov 13-21; It’s a first come, first served lucky dip where you can buy an original postcard-sized artwork for £40. The names of the artists, designers and illustrators are unseen, but if you can recognise the style of, say, Grayson Perry, Nick Park or Paula Rego, you’re more likely to get lucky. And it could be the best £40 you ever spend. At Sotheby’s in 2007, a Damien Hirst skull drawing from 2004’s RCA Secret resold for £15,600, while Peter Doig’s card from the 2000 sale went for £42,000."

Full article, which is worth a read, here

Friday, October 02, 2009

Get dring mobile secret postcard auction

News reaches me of urban art gallery owner Mike Dring having a secret postcard sale to raise money for Mike to buy an adapted car which will enable him to drive independently. Mike is tetraplegic following an accident and the purchase of the vehicle will go a long way to giving him true independence. The sale will take place in Bristol between 14 and 15 October 2009.

I've known mike for a few years now and you couldn't meet a nicer, more generous bloke. So please give generously. He is also organising an auction and some great works have been donated. Check it all out at the Get Dring Mobile Blog. More details on the sale as soon as I get it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

RCA secret visual identity

Isn't the promotional artwork for RCA secret great? The college have just updated the site with the 2009 image, which I am assuming given the look and feel remains by Bravo Charlie Mike Hotel. More details of their work with RCA secret here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

RIP Donald Hamilton-Fraser RA

I was very sad to read in the Times today that RCA Secret contributor Donald Hamilton-Fraser RA passed away earlier this month. Good obituary here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

He's making a list...checking it twice

So this post is going to sound a bit anal but trust me there are traps for the unwary if you turn up at the college unprepared with a list that does not pass muster.

The first time I went to the RCA secret sale was in 2000. I suppose I had a list of about 30 cards - numbers scribbled down everywhere. Needless to say by the time I got to the front of the queue nearly everything on my list had gone. I did get 2 cards I liked (and still like) but if I am honest that was more by luck than judgement.

Since then I have been refining the way in which I make my list and I think I have it down to a fine art now (no pun intended).

So here are some tips for making a list

1) No list can be too long. Trust me unless you win the raffle many of the cards you really like will have gone. So make a long list of cards. I am regularly about 70th in the queue and my list contains over 100 cards.

2) Make sure that the list is well organised. It doesn't matter how you organise it just ensure that the list really works for you. The stress when you get to the front of the queue is difficult to explain. You don't expect it to be stressful until you are standing there and by then it is too late to start organising your list. So make sure your list follows a system that you know is going to work when you are under stress and suffering from the combination of lack of sleep, frostbite and caffeine overload.

3) Give as good a description of the cards on your list as possibly can. When you get to the front of the queue the description you scribbled down next to the card of "red abstract" or "man in hat" just ain't gonna cut it. You will be struggling to remember what the hell that card is. Try to make your descriptions really explain what the card is about. Look on it as art criticism! And hey if you are technologically minded why not get the photos from the rca site and print them out. That stops the confusion.

4) Do you make your list in numerical order or in the order of the cards you want? I go for the latter but that does make it very difficult to cross off the cards as you are waiting in the room with the screens downstairs. Maybe you can do both! I'm not sure, I have never tried.

5) Remember when you get to the front of the queue be systematic. If you are not sure whether a card you want is sold then ask. We get very British about not wanting to hold people up behind us but this is your chance to get the art you want so use it.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

RCA Secret facebook page

The college have set up an RCA Secret facebook page featuring news and some good photos of last years show, with a few characters I recognise. Go here to become a fan.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Short article in Vogue Online

A short article appeared in Vogue Online about the 2009 sale today. It doesn't say much but is the first press coverage I am aware of. Click here to read it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

RCA Secret 2009 dates announced

The college has now announced the dates for the 2009 sale. The Exhibition will run from 13 to 20 November 2009 with the sale on 21 November 2009. There has been no increase in price in the cost of the postcards (£40) and there will be a raffle again for the top 50 places. I'm excited already.

Here is the text of the press release from the college


13 - 21 November 2009

Where can you buy an original piece of art by the likes of Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry and Yoko Ono for just £40? At RCA Secret 2009.

RCA Secret is an annual contemporary art exhibition and sale consisting of around 2,500 original postcard-sized artworks, made and donated by professional artists, designers and illustrators, plus up-and-coming students from the Royal College of Art. The cards are all sold to the public in a huge sale, with every postcard costing just £40, regardless of whether it has been made by a famous name or a young art student.

What’s the Secret? Each postcard is signed on the back, so buyers don’t know the identity of the artist until they have made their purchase. Although it can help if you know the difference between a David Hockney and a Peter Blake, a lot of it is down to pure luck and many buyers don’t realise whose work they have chosen until they hand over their cash.

The RCA is grateful to receive enormous support from hundreds of leading international artists and designers who contribute to the event each year. Last year’s sale saw the most cards received in its 15 year history with 2,700 including contributions from Yoko Ono, Paula Rego, Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry, Olafur Eliasson, David Bailey, fashion designer Paul Smith, Stone Roses guitarist John Squire and animator Nick Park to name just a few.

Potential buyers will be able to view all the postcards in person at the RCA in London or on-line at from 13-21 November. All postcards go up for sale on Saturday 21 November at the RCA. 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 in the queue.

As well as being a fundraiser for the Fine Art students at the College, RCA Secret has a loyal following of supporters including regular collectors and art-lovers some of whom have been visiting the show since it began in 1994. It is not only one of the most popular events at the RCA, but has now become an established date in the British art calendar.

As in previous years all monies raised goes to the Royal College of Art Fine Art Student Award Fund. To date, sales of postcards have raised over £1 million for the Fund, helping hundreds of emerging artists at a formative stage in their careers.

RCA Secret 2009

Location: Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU

Viewing Days: 13 - 20 November, 11am - 6pm daily.

Sale Day: 21 November, from 8am.

Public information: 020 7590 4186 or here

Tube: South Kensington/High Street Kensington

Buses: 9,10, 52, 452