Friday, December 17, 2010

RCA Secret Blog 5 years old

The RCA Secret blog is 5 years old today.  Time flies eh!

Thanks to alll the artists and other contributors who have helped the blog over the last five years.  Thanks to you all for reading it.  But mostly thanks to the college for the fantastic show they put on each year. 

Here's to another 5 years!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shhhh It's a postcard secret

Here is a very amusing article by Lisa Gee originally published in beat magazine and reproduced with their kind permission.  If you've never heard of beat magazine you should really check them out.  It's a good read.

I sulked childishly when a mix-up of dates made it look like I’d have to miss the RCA Secret sale this year, and who can blame me? After all, what could possibly compare with the joys of spending a night on the streets of Kensington in the midst of a bitterly cold November, then queuing for hours to buy four postcards?
But, thanks to a very understanding friend, who adopted my daughter for twenty-four hours whilst somehow restraining herself from questioning my sanity, 9pm on Friday 19th November, 2010, found me settling in on Prince Consort Road, SW7, behind a queue of people, some of whom had been there for days.
Emrys Williams

For the uninitiated, the RCA Secret sale is an annual event that raises money to fund student bursaries. More than a thousand artists – from Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin to current RCA post-grads – contribute postcard-sized artworks, each of which goes on sale for £45.

The “Secret” is that all cards are displayed anonymously. So, unless you’re a serious art buff, able to identify a specific artist’s work and either have the time and desire to queue for days – it’s first come, first served – or are lucky enough to have your raffle ticket drawn to be one of the first fifty allowed in, you won’t know who made your cards until you’ve bought them.

Last year, I viewed the cards the day before the sale – they’re exhibited for the week beforehand – made a short scribbled list of the numbers of the postcards I liked, got up at around 4am on Saturday morning, cycled down and stood in the rain for about five hours to buy three cards. I was hooked. Bizarrely, the joy of the thing was as much in the queuing as in the buying. So this year, I resolved to queue longer and better.
The shmangle - an inside out technicolour dream coat

Once I knew I was free to go, I embarked on a short, cut-price shopping trip. I bought a £7 tent, some thermal underwear made for 13-year-olds, the world’s warmest pair of socks, a cheap trekking mat and – best of all – something called a “shmangle” blanket. This also cost £7 and (unlike everything else which came from I “heart” was heavily reduced in John Lewis. My “shmangle” blanket – can’t resist saying it again: “shmangle” blanket – is a huge rainbow-coloured fleecy oblong, backed with bright pink waterproof plasticky stuff and, get this, IT HAS A HOOD.

In other words, it’s a thing designed for people who routinely shop in John Lewis to go for nice drizzly autumnal countryside walks in. It comes in a handy pink bag. NB: Not recommended for people called Joseph who live in biblical times and have lots of jealous brothers.
a camping-loo

But one thing troubled me. How would I manage without, erm, facilities? There aren’t that many places to “go” in the middle of the night when you’re camping in Kensington. So I wondered (on Twitter naturally) if I should buy a fold-up camping loo. I’d never used one but, essentially, it’s a folding chair with a toilet seat and a biodegradable bag.

Someone tweeted back, mentioning a rumour that the RCA were installing portaloos. Great, I replied, I’ll ask when I visit the exhibition.

The next day I bussed down to the RCA, bought a few raffle tickets and asked the young woman selling them about the loos. She didn’t know, so went to find out. A few minutes later – once I’d started noting down details of my favourite cards – a deputation arrived and I was hauled off for interrogation.
Well, almost. Wilhelmina Bunn – the twinkly exhibition curator, for whom the whole Secret business is evidently a massive labour of love – wanted to know who was asking about toilets. She grilled me for a few minutes, but didn’t ask what I suspect she was trying to find out: If I knew about the toilets, had I also uncovered some of the more profound RCA Secrets? By the end of our discussion, she’d figured out that I a) knew nothing, b) am mostly harmless and c) am not entirely in control of my own mouth.
Basil Alkazzi

I reached home with a list of over 100 postcards any four of which I knew I’d be happy to live with and, just as important, confirmation of the availability of overnight toilet facilities. Over the next couple of days I refined my list of favourites and carefully copied and pasted images of my top 36 off the RCA Secret website – so that this year I’d know which ones I was trying to buy.

Then, on Friday evening, dressed in warm clothes and thermal undies, I pitched my tent in the queue, hoping the weather would hold. Call me old-fashioned, but I didn’t trust my tent’s claim to be waterproof up to 1000mm of rain. To be honest, I didn’t trust my tent to keep out 1mm of rain. It cost £7, for god’s sake and its label described it as a “TWO PERSON ADVENTURE GARDEN PLAY TENT”. There was no way it was going to protect me from anything wetter than talcum powder.

I rolled out my mat and sleeping bag and donned my shmangle blanket.

Queuing in front of me was Toni, a medical secretary who spent the night out in her work clothes, with no tent, no sleeping bag, a copy of Metro to sit on and pop socks and pumps. She refused all offers of hats, warm clothes blankets (even my beloved shmangle) from other punters and the world’s friendliest security guards, who patrolled up and down the queue good-humouredly all night.

In front of Toni were a young couple so loved up they didn’t interact with anyone else until 7:30 am the next morning when they realised they couldn’t get their tent back in its bag and had to ask for help. Behind me was a young graphic designer from New Zealand, behind him a couple – Chris and Fiona – from Luton.
Over the hours we nattered, slept, shared snacks, discussed the cards we liked and watched each others’ stuff during comfort breaks. From time to time people from the front of the queue wandered back to chat with us. Just before 11pm, a posse of roller-skaters, accompanied by a thudding sound system on a recumbent bike zoomed past.

Every now and then passing tourists and drunks would stop to ask us what on earth we thought we were doing.
The queue for The RCA Secrets show 2010

Early the next morning we packed away our tents – except for the loved-up couple who dragged theirs along the street until the very last minute – and got on with the business of standing in line. There was more chatter. Our little group was joined by Toby, who works for a charity and Henry, a plumber. I found out that Toni is learning British Sign Language and Chris and Fiona – he’s an IT expert, she manages events for a local authority – are learning to figure skate.

That’s the best thing about RCA Secret. While the press coverage trumpets the chance you have of buying something worth thousands for forty-five quid, it gets on quietly with being one of the most egalitarian visual art events happening anytime, anywhere. There are all kinds of people in the queue from all kinds of backgrounds. Most of us aren’t there to make our fortunes. We’re there to buy original artwork we like and for the sheer fun of it.

It’s also possibly the only genuinely gender-blind arts event. Earlier this year UK Feminista released depressing figures about the representation of women in the arts. 70% of the artists nominated for the Turner prize have been men and 83% of the work showing in Tate Modern is by male artists.
Stephanie Theobald

But with RCA Secret you don’t know whether what you’re buying is by a man or a woman.

And what did I come away with?

These three cards. The white birds out of the blue background are by Basil Alkazzi. The island is by Welsh artist Emrys Williams, the two men on a spoon by RCA post grad student Stephanie Theobald and a landscape (not shown) by west country artist, Eric Thorn.

Find More about The RCA Secret here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anonymous sale in Portland, Oregon

Readers of the blog on the other side of the pond might be interested in this anonymous sale, details below:

Chris Haberman and Jason Brown presents.....

the BIG 100 ART SHOW (year 3) -
100 + regional artists, 15 works each, everything is framed and $50 each (cash/carry). Over 1500 8"x8" framed works will be displayed.  NO ARTIST names or titles will appear on is hung randomly on an even playing field of JUST ART - veteran gallery artists next to emergin talent - a true diverse collection of Portland art. Perfect as gifts for the holidays!!!!

Dec 2nd, 2010 (First Thursday opening), also displayed Dec 3rd and 4th.  4pm-2am.  21 over only.

GOODFOOT GALLERY (and Lounge) both floors.  2845 SE Stark.


BENEFIT - portions of overall proceeds go to CASCADE AIDS PROJECT, and food donations collected at the door go to the Oregon Food Bank (St. Francis Parish) and the Rose Senior Center (off Burnside) - we put them in food for 2 months last year, so spread the word - this has a DIRECT effect on inner Southeast homeless and senior population  - 1 meal is provided per day at these locations from direct food donations like this.

We are super happy about this show and we have a solid 128 artists for a show that is usually 100.  Woo hoo!!! 


BIG 100 FACTS:  This is our 3rd year doing THE BIG 100, a project that stemmed out of show called "The 30 Show" started by artist Flora Bowley.  After Flora retired her show, Jason Brown and I (Chris Haberman) decided that we wanted to take the show to Olympic Mills Commerce Center in 2007.  In 2008, I began Portland City Art w John Graeter and the 2nd annual show was a giant success (we sold 70% of the show in 5 hours).  With Oly Mills building being sold, we have taken the show to The Goodfoot Gallery, a giant art "bar" gallery in Southeast that has supported many artists for many years with the curatorial talents of Jason Brown.  We expect a giant crowd at this annual show and lots of great art across the Portland board.  The BIG 100 remains one of the largest and MOST DIVERSE shows in our city.

THE BIG 100 is graciously sponsored by Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene, OR), Po Boy Art Gallery and Frameshop, KBOO community radio, Fred Meyer (bag donation) and The Goodfoot.

The opening will have DJ music by Ryan Organ, Carrier, Antix, Josh T., Sunday Grip, Obe, Rap Class, Tricera & Brazil, Ninkasi beer, select local wines, a full bar and food and music for both floors.

Thank you for your support of local art in Portland.

Chris Haberman - curator/artist, Chris Haberman Presents...

Jason Brown - curator/artist, Goodfoot Gallery


Adam Ciresi
Adam Sheppard
Allen Schmertzinger
Amy Stoner
Angela Gay
Ania Palinska
Anna Magruder
April O'Connor
Ashley Costa
Barry Mack
Benjamin Stewart
Beth Myrick
Brent Wear
Brett Superstar
Brenda Dunn
Brent Wick
Brin Levinson
Casey Rae Wickum
Chelsea Fletcher
Chris Bibby
Chris Gaslin
Chris Haberman
Chuck Bloom
Cody Wirz
Dan Ness
David Gage
Dennis Dread
Derek Olsen
Dizzy Orion
Edward Juan
Ed Maitland Jones
Erin Nations
Erika Lee Sears
Eryka Dean Ryn
Flora Bowley
Fred Swan
Gabe Flores
Gary Hirsch
Gary Houston
Gary Wiseman
Grant Johnson
Greg Pitters
Guy Burwell
Harry Moritz
Heidi Elise Wirz
Heather MacKenzie
Hunter Armstrong
Icky A
Jason Brown
Jason Edward Davis
Jason Graham
Jeff Fontaine
Jeni Lee
Jenn Feeney
Jennifer Griffo
Jennifer Mercede
Jeremy Nichols
Jeremy Schultz
Jesse Reno
Joanne Licardo
Joel  Barber
John Gajowski
John Hoar
Johnny Tragedy
Jolyn Fry
Jon Hill Jacquard
Joseph Arrow
Kara Larkin
Kelly Williams
Kenny Spurlock
Kendra Binney
Kerosene Rose
Kevin Fitzgerald, KMF
Kevin Noonan
Kirk Charlton
Kit Kross
Larry Christensen
Liana Norton
Lisa Laser
Leslie Ebert
Lea Keohane
Lorna Nakell
Luna Littleleaf
Malynda Shook
Mario Robert
Marlena Simone Hatchel
Martha Wallulis
M@tt Leavitt
Matt Schlosky
Maryann Puls
Megan Galante
Micah Krock
Michael Costello
Michelle Tuffias
Mike Fields
Misty Ray
Neil Perry
Nicole Linde
Nicholas Orr
Patrick Daly
Peach Momoko
Richard Schemmerer
Rio Wrenn
Robin Carlisle
Ronni J Kobrin
Sabina Haque
Sam Arneson
Sarah Cruse
Sarah Kamsler
Scott Chase
Summer Hatfield
Tanya Herrera
Terence Healy
Teresa Garber
Theresa Andreas-O'Leary
Tim Combs
Todd Hinchman
Travis Wright
Tripper Dungan
Tuna Poanessa
Tyler Corbett
Yo Mutsu
Zack Baltzly
Zack Blei
Zak Gere

The Goodfoot
2845 SE Stark
503-239-9292 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              503-239-9292      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Portland, OR 97214
open daily 4-2:30

Saturday, November 27, 2010

RCA secret and ebay

It's absolutely freezing this morning.  Just think the sale could have been today... would people have queued in this weather?

In other news there are a smattering of 4 cards from this years show on ebay (and a couple from previous years) including cards by Richard Young and Manolo Blahnik.  Whilst there will always be the odd card on ebay after the sale we are now a week on and that represents 0.1% of the total cards sold so it looks like the vast majority went to loving homes.  .   Would love to see pics of how you frame them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jools RCA secret

Here is a description of Jool's RCA secret originally posted on her blog

This year we did it a little differently – an earlier start, along with some chairs & blankets – we were in it for our version of the “Long Haul”. We arrived & joined the queue at – two hours earlier than we did last year. The first thing we saw were tents – and lots of them! I’m sure there were more campers this year, as the queue was on Prince Consort Road by the time me and The Boy joined it. We pitched up, broke out the blankets and waited. Those chairs were a godsend: other than being able to catch a nap in a comfy position, the idea of leaning against the wall or sitting on the pavement for all that time was not appealing – I swear it was colder this year. We were also aided by the food & flask of coffee we brought along… oh, and a hip-flask with a “wee dram” in it which The Boy brought along as a warming surprise :)

By 06:30a.m “The Surge” happened: people in Tents started packing away and the line started to move along – we were further along on Bremner Road by 06:37a.m – which is just around the corner from the RCA. The Queue broke into 2 segments (from our perspective) at this point 1) those who were lined up alongside the RCA building & 2) those who were on the other pavement – which is where we were… all that separated us was a road. It seems that getting there a few hours earlier made a difference indeed, as I was surprised at how close we were to the RCA already at that point.
08:41a.m and we were in the RCA. The Boy did what I always forget to do, and asked the Guard on the door with the Counter what numbers we were as he clocked us in: 227 & 228. That might sound like a high number, but considering how many people queue for the event, that was pretty good going! I refused to look at my lists until we were at that point in the line where you could see the screens…

We got to that point in the queue… we could see the screens. A lot of the cards were still available – it was very early into the Sale, the 1st 50 Raffle Winners had been & gone (we didn’t win again this year) & we were getting closer to being able to ask for our choices…

And with a big “Huzzah!” I can say that these are latest editions to my RCA Secret Collection:
No. 1149 by Pierre Julien
No. 2207 by Angela Lamb

I’m so pleased with these 2 as they were both on my “Ultimate” list of cards that I really wanted :)
Even though cards are still available later in the day, I still think it’s worth it to get there earlier – to me it feels like you have more of a chance of walking away with the Cards that you want. Third time doing this, and it’s still an amazing feeling – I can’t believe how quickly the Sale came round & that it’s over!
I didn’t take as many this year, due to the fact I managed to sleep a lot in the Queue (thanks to those chairs!) but my pictures from the RCA Secret 2010 can be viewed over on Flickr:

Until next year RCA Secret, see you later :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My rca secret 2010 experience

So remember I said that I have never won the raffle,  well that duck was broken in spectacular fashion.  Of which more later......

As ever the build up to the sale was prefaced with news filtering out from the college about the number of contributors to the exhibition and various new names who had never contributed to the exhibition before were added - including Franz West, Yinka Shonibare, Sir Anthony Caro etc.

We kept our eyes peeled for information from the college on their facebook page and twitter feed and also for any news articles appearing.

The other big news in advance of the sale was that price of the cards had gone up.  Cards were now £45 each rather than £40 (they were £35 when I first started going to the sale).  I still think this represents very good value for money.  Where else can you buy an original work of art for that sum?

There was a heck of a lot of press in advance of the sale this year including a piece on BBC breakfast TV as well as numerous articles in the written press.  Whilst it is of course great to see the college get so much great press there is  always that nagging doubt at the back of the mind that more press equals an even longer queue and more waiting.  But hey ho not much can be done about that.

Anyway after much anticipation the cards were released online on Friday.  I got my first chance to see them in person on Sunday.  Perhaps because the college had been closed the previous day, Saturday, it felt like a queue reunion and I saw loads of old friends there.  I also went with the kids who are now old enough to know what they like and both spent time writing their lists of what numbers they wanted.

So the next few days were spent browsing the cards on the net, and choosing the ones I liked.  Come Friday morning I had a pretty good idea what I ideally wanted and headed down to the college to set up camp.  There I could see that the queue was already over the road from Kensington Gore.  Plus I also saw that I'd managed to beat John (just), Hugh, mark and Chris.  They all turned up shortly thereafter and the rest of the day was spent queueing, looking at the cards and chatting.

John and I also popped over the road to Kensington Gardens to see the Anish Kapoor sculptures.  If you haven't been I can highly recommend it.  The sky mirrors seem to turn the sky into one huge painting and really opens up your eyes to what is around and above you.

On other thing that I should mention - the queue now does not go round the corner but crosses over the street in Kensington Gore due to complaints from local residents.  This was causing a lot of problems for the person right at the end of that part of the queue who had to constantly tell new arrivals that they had not reached the end of the queue but had to cross the road.  Luckily the college were persuaded to put up a sign by us and a bollard and this seemed to stop the problem going forward.  The college also arranged for a security guard to patrol the queue and for portaloos to be installed at the back of the college which was also a real help.  So thanks for that :)

Anyway time came for the college to close its doors and for us all to settle down for the night in the queue.  But before that we had the excitement of the raffle draw.  Would this be the year I got the call?

Well indeed it was.  In fact not only did I get the call but also my daughter as well, who was beside herself with excitement.   I'm not sure which one of us was more elated!  So I stayed with the guys for a little while, lent my tent to someone else in the queue, and headed off home.

Needless to say it was a strange experience being in a warm bed on the night before the sale, instead of wrapped up in a sleeping bag on the street.  Of course I was absolutely delighted to win the raffle but at the same time kinda missed the camaraderie of the queue and the mounting excitement that queueing overnight provides.  Perhaps in sympathy for my queue compadres I woke up wide awake at 3am and couldn't get back to sleep, for thinking about cards and numbers.

So we turned up the following morning and got let into the college at 7am.  All of us milled around in the entrance and were then told that our names would be called and that we were to assemble in order.  Amazingly I was called fifth in the order, which was very exciting and my daughter was 44th.  Having discussed tactics with her beforehand we agreed that if I was higher up the list than her I would buy for her her number 1 choice and favourite card - a drawing of a motorbike that I was fairly sure was by Grayson Perry.  She would then buy one card for me from her list, another card from her sisters list and two from her own.

So in the end I bought the following cards

Tracey Emin:

Grayson Perry:

Peter Jones

Simon Foxall

I was absolutely delighted with these these and really pleased that I had at long last managed to get cards by two artists I have long admired (Emin and Jones) but never been able to get at RCA secret.  People will know from my previous posts that this is the not the first time I have been after a Peter Jones in particular, he is one of my favourite artists.

And my daughter got

Frances Fogg (for her sister)

Peter Savage

Glen Baxter

and this card for me by Ruth Murray:

We haven't been able to find out too much information about the first two of these artists.  Strangely I bought a Frances Fogg card two years ago because I loved it (and it was very different from this one).  So I would love to know more details about Frances if anyone has any out there.  The card by Ruth Murray was absolutely one of my favourites, a beautiful card drawn but a very talented painter.  I wasn't familiar with her work before RCA secret (although I must have seen her college graduation show as I certainly went to the RCA show that year) so it is nice to have a "new" artist to research and to follow their career.

Thanks to the college for a wonderful show and a great experience.  It was splendid to beat my raffle duck and I will see you all again, in the queue, next year.

Let me know your experiences and what you got! xx

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Designer Dan on RCA secret

Here is something written by Daniel Hall about his experiences of the RCA secret sale.  Dan's blog can be accessed here
Although I have posted about the previous years RCA Secrets on this very blog, today was the first time I actually braved the mammoth queues to try and get myself a postcard.

RCA Secret Postcards at the Royal Academy of Arts 2010

Searching through the internet the day before the sale I found there to be a real lack of information for first timers like myself. I was interested to know what time people generally started queuing and I wanted someone to manage my expectations on how quickly the postcards start to sell out. So I thought before I do a write up of the artists and artworks I purchased, I would write a dedicated blog post describing the morning to hopefully give people a better understanding of the sale.

If you're impatient though photos have been uploaded onto my Flickr account, so if you want a sneak peek as to what I managed to get you can go here.

We got to the Royal College of Art for 5:45am and saw the street next to the RCA full of tents, as we walked down the street it looked like they had stopped. "Great!" we thought, this isn't too bad, unfortunately we then saw a sign saying the queue carries on across the street. There were a lot of overnighters so even getting there earlier wouldn't have progressed our position in the queue that much. Below is a quick diagram showing how long the queue was when we got there, which also shows how many tents there were.

Even at this unearthly hour on a Saturday morning there was a real buzz in the air, within minutes everyone was chatting to each other . It was great listening to peoples stories on how they had arrived, some had just carried on their Friday night drinking whilst others had woken up early. The time seemed to go by pretty quick and after the tent brigade packed up the queue moved along a fair amount boosting morale. However after 4 hours we were still outside so we were starting to feel the cold even through multiple layers, thankfully it wasn't raining as I could imagine that would make things pretty miserable.

Once inside the RCA we had to queue for another hour before we could see the screens showing which postcards have been sold and which are still available to order. I had a personal list of about 70-80 cards I really liked and i was chuffed to see that about 20% of my postcards were still available. I managed to buy 2 cards which were in my top 20 which was great and I was really happy with my other 2 choices, however other people were less happy as all their cards had gone. Once purchased at the cashiers we went upstairs with an invoice, where RCA staff collected our postcards and brought them over.

Finally receiving the cards after queuing for 5 1/2 hours gave us quite amazing feeling. I can see why the postcards hardly ever pop up for resale as there is such a strong personal experience associated with obtaining the artwork.

For those who just want any postcard from the show I had a look on the RCA Facebook page and there were still 350 cards left of the 2,700 with a minimum queue at 4:15pm. So don't be put off by thinking you have to get there stupidly early before they all sell out.

I guess the big question is would i do it again?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The secret is revealed

The college has now revealed on the RCA secret website who did what. Check it out. As usual there are bound to be some surprises.

College open for 50 more minutes

You've got around 50 more minutes to make your last minute purchases.  Apparently there are still some cards left, although not many. 

As for me I had a rather good day.  More later.

Hopefully once the college is closed then the college will post details of who did what.  How did everyone get on?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good luck all

Good luck to everyone queueing for the sale tomorrow and saturday morning.  I hope you get what you want.  And remember the 7 golden rules

1. Make sure your list is looonnnggg

2. Check that you have the numbers of the cards right on your list. It's easy to make a mistake

3. Buy what you like

4. Be nice to those around you in the queue (one of them may be me :)

5. When you get the front of the queue breathe, relax and go through your list systematically

6. When you've chosen your cards get the cashier to read the numbers back to so you can check you have the right ones

7. Frame, display don't eBay      

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Late opening tomorrow

Don't forget the college is open late tomorrow. Viewing of the sale is open until 9pm.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Decisions Decisions!

How do you choose from 2,800 Pieces of Art?

It can be overwhelming, and almost offputting to see so many and have to choose.

Once you choose how do put them in order?

Which one do I like more?

Do I like the big crow more than the three crows?

What about the drawing of the octopus-like wierd creature thing?


Whatever your taste, there's surely something for you at the RCA Secret. What I would suggest is that you make sure you have plenty of 'backup' cards on your list (more decisions).

This Blog allows all comments, let us know how you decide what to put on your list?

Monday, November 15, 2010

RCA secret on breakfast TV tomorrow.

RCA Secret is going to be on BBC Breakfast tomorrow morning on BBC 1 at 6.50am, 7.50am and between 8.40 & 9am. Includes an interview with Sir Peter Blake, curator Wilhelmina Bunn and art critic Richard Cork.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lorraine Snape on RCA secret

Regular contributor to the show Lorraine Snape has written a little piece for us about her involvement in RCA secret.  The canvas which appears above is one of hers that my other half bought at RCA secret 2003 and now hangs in our daughter's bedroom.

I first heard of RCA Secret from a friend, and contributor, Ebba Erikzon. We were away in Manchester together for a few days and she was drawing on these postcards, so eventually curiosity got the better of me and I asked what she was up to! She told me about the show, having studied at the RCA herself, and asked me if I'd like her to put my name forward. Sounded like an exciting thing to be involved with. This was about 7 years ago, and I've done most years since.

I vary in my approach each time but don't go down the road of trying to mimic anyone, or pass as someone else, though I know a lot of that goes on.

I have submitted canvasses, photographs and even chocolate bars! but mostly I think the cards have been little ink drawings. So the work flits from sketches, to abstract and even conceptual work but the scale is quite different for me as generally my canvasses are 8'-10' tall!

It's quite exciting to have the blank cards turn up in the post. I always end up leaving them until it's far too late. Inevitably the deadline gets extended, and I leave it even later, and then finally I hand deliver them on the last submission day instead of getting them in the post in plenty of time.

There's a certain freedom involved in producing the works. Somehow in my head I imagine that the work is completely anonymous, and that, in itself, allows for a greater element of creativity. Although, the opposite is true, I believe that no one may ever find out they're mine.

I persuade myself easily with natural insecurity that they won't sell and therefore the card will never be turned over to reveal the true identity.  Consequently, that thought has been somewhat undermined by the college in the last couple of years, revealing, as they do, the names alongside the images on the site following the sale.

When it comes to the sale itself, well, actually the party, I'm always embarrassed walking past the tents pitched outside. November is pretty cold on the streets of London and I find it hard when people are queuing outside in advance and we artists, as contributors, swan past for our glass of free champagne and perhaps even a gift from a keen sponsor.

Once inside, it's a game to find yourself, find your own cards whilst at the same time trying to guess your friends, then onto anyone famous, and finally, which ones are your favourites.

RCA Secret is such a great all inclusive and levelling show. I always enjoy it, and having checked out the cards online and already got into the mood, this year is no exception.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

College closed today

Don't forget the college is closed today. I would't want anyone to have a wasted trip.

How is everyone getting on? There are a lot of cards to go through aren't there.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cards Are Now Online!!!

Stop reading this and click here!!!

Words not Cards

As we all await the cards being online and the gallery to open (both to happen around 11:00am). The RCA have posted an essay on the Sales from Nicola Churchward, (Critical Writing in Art & Design, RCA). Here is the link, the essay text is shown below...

In the summer of 1840, the playwright and novelist, Theodore Hook of Fulham, London, dropped a small piece of card into his local letterbox. On one side he had written his own address and, on the other, he had printed a somewhat absurd and unflattering caricature of twelve men, gathered dutifully around an impossibly gigantic ink well. Each man appeared to be as ungainly and repugnant looking as the next. Each one concentrating, bleary eyed, on holding his quill.

It was unheard of for items to travel through the postal system without an envelope at this time, so this little piece of card was sure to attract the attention of every postal worker who was obliged to handle it. What did they see? The men depicted on the card were, in fact, postal workers. The joke was on them. And so it was for the solitary pleasure of a rather eccentric man that the picture postcard was born, not two miles from where you stand.

170 years later, this ‘postal innovation’ has come to epitomize our aptitude for communicating through images. A picture speaks a thousand words, or so they say. It can inspire and remind us. Calm or excite us. Or indeed make us laugh. A marker in time and place the picture postcard might remain on the wall for a lifetime.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Big news day for RCA secret

Phew, where to start on a big news day for RCA secret.

First up the college informed us on the facebook group that Stella McCartney is a contributor this year.

Secondly there has been LOADS of press about rca secret. The best is a great article in the guardian (reproduced below). But that wasn't the only press. Articles have also appeared in Harpers Bazaar and Vogue.

Royal College of Art postcard exhibition is biggest yet

RCA Secret is in its 17th year, and offers people the opportunity to own an artwork – perhaps by a famous artist – for £45

Would Jake Chapman, Tracey Emin or Yinka Shonibare have simply painted the word "GOOD" in gaudy orange on a postcard, or would they have contributed something a bit more "them"?

The question arises as the Royal College of Art once more prepares for a charity event that has become one of the most interesting and enjoyable fundraisers on the visual art calendar.

Staff today began installing 2,800 postcard-sized artworks for RCA Secret – the biggest show in its 17 years. The cards are displayed anonymously online and at the RCA in London for a week before being offered to the public at £45 each. It could be a work by Sir Anthony Caro or Grayson Perry, or by a student. The work might one day be worth tens of thousands of pounds, or it might be barely worth the paper it was drawn on.

"It does feel like it gets bigger and bigger each year and this is the biggest yet," said curator Wilhelmina Bunn. "We now have a really nice community of artists who want to support it and the community is a little stronger than it used to be. That might be because students are more in need of bursaries."

More than £1m has been raised over the years for fine art bursaries and if all the cards sell this year then at least £126,000 will be raised. Money which is, Bunn said, even more important in these straightened times. "It has supported lots and lots of artists who might not have been able to come here without the support of a bursary."

It is now an incredibly popular event, given an added frisson by being first come first served. "Even though it's November we quite often get people staying two or three nights in a tent to be first in the queue," said Bunn. "Then a lot of people come very early on the morning of the sale, some of them after the pub, some of them on the way home from somewhere. It's a lovely atmosphere."

Bunn said it should not be assumed these early birds were after what they thought was an Emin or a Chapman. "A lot of people want to buy specific works they've seen in the exhibition, not necessarily by very famous people, but works they like. They want to own art by artists and they think that the Royal College of Art students and alumni and tutors represents a great deal of quality in art."

The exhibition opens and goes online Friday and the sale day is 20 November with the first 50 entrants being decided by raffle through the RCA.

This year's roster of more famous contributors also includes Sir Peter Blake, Olafur Eliasson, Yoko Ono, John Baldessari, Ron Arad, Terence Conran, Mike Leigh, James Dyson, Nick Park, Sir Paul Smith, Manolo Blahnik and Stella McCartney.

Some of those may be going to great lengths to disguise the fact it is them but Bunn believes most don't. "The ego is sometimes too big. People tend to want to do the thing that they do, because that's what they're known for."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Interview in Time Out London

Time out London seem to have persuaded some random punter to give them an interview about RCA secret. Luckily no photographs of our hapless interviewee were used!

This week (November 12-19) 2,500 artworks the size of a postcard go on display at the Royal College of Art. Some of the drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures are by RCA students who have yet to make their names, others are by established artists, illustrators and designers, this year including Grayson Perry, Tracey Emin, Peter Blake, Yoko Ono, Nick Park and Ron Arad. No matter who they're by, the price for each work in the RCA Secret sale is the same: £45. But the signature's on the back so you won't know for certain whose work you're buying until you've paid for it. The fundraiser, for the RCA's fine-art students, started in 1994, and it's grown in popularity each year. Some people even queue overnight. We asked one of them, Perry Hill, a great enthusiast who co-authors a blog on the event (, to explain its appeal.

When did you first discover the RCA Secret sale?
'In 2000.I was browsing Time Out and looking for something to do at the weekend when I came across a listing for RCA Secret and thought it could be fun to go along and have a look.
I queued for the sale and bought two postcards including one by British abstract artist Richard Smith.I was totally bitten by the bug and have been every year since, and have queued overnight since 2001.'

Have you got a background in art?
'No, I've always enjoyed contemporary art but have no background in it.My day job is as a solicitor so contemporary art in generaland RCA Secret in particular offers a real opportunity to get involved in a completely different world.'

You're clearly a big fan. What's so special about the event?

'It's very accessible.There are no stuffy gallery staff looking down their noses at you.The saleis open to anyone who is prepared to queue.The fact that all the art is anonymous means that you are forced to put aside any preconceptions you may have.Fans generally buy the artwork they like - if it turns out to be by a well known artist, that is a bonus.'

It's not a matter of turning up on the sale day and hoping to stroll in and buy the artwork you fancy, is it? Talk us through the process.

'The cards are exhibited at the college from November 12.They're displayed in groups of 100 and all the cards are numbered.They are also online.You can wander round the exhibition and make a note of the numbers of the cards that you like.You also need to ensure that you have registered with the college before the sale day, which you can do in person or online.

The sale starts at 8am on Saturday November 20.It's very popular and there is a long queue by the time the doors open.Once at the front of the queue you're taken down to a room below the exhibition hall. There's a bank of tills and a computer screen which displays the numbers and tiny images of the cards. The sold cards are indicated on the screen. When you get to the front of the queue you read out the card numbers to the cashier. Don't worry if you haven't noted whether a particular card is still available - they'll tell you if it is not.

Once you have selected your cards you pay for them and take your collection slip up to the gallery. There a runner will get the cards for you and you can then check the back for the all-important name.'

How helpful is viewing online?
'It's always better to see the cards in the flesh, as a flat 2D image online can only give you a general idea.I've seen some cards online andthought they were photographs.It was only when I turned up and saw them in person thatI realised that, in fact, they were paintings.'

How early do you start to queue?

'I queue overnight but not everyone is that dedicated.The queue tends to swell rapidly from about 6am onwards so arriving before then is recommended, although I have known people to get the cards they wanted when they started queueing much later than that.The key is to make sure that you have a long list of cards you like so that you are not too disappointed if your first choices are all sold.'

What's the atmosphere like in the queue?
'I've never met such a friendly, yet diverse collection of people. I have made some very close friends through queueing each year.The excitement builds as you'd expect; it's like a social game of poker, with everyone wanting to talk about the postcards, the artists, what they like, but all holding their list of numbers close to their chest. Advice abounds, but people are conscious of those in the queue ahead of them.'

There's a raffle for the first 50 places in the queue. How does that work?

'Once you've registered for the sale you can buy up to 10 raffle tickets at £1 each. They're on sale at the college up until the afternoon of November 19. The college draw 50 winners and telephone them on Friday evening, generally between 6pm and 7pm. If you've won you are allowed to enter the sale before the queuers. I've never won the raffle but I believe you're assigned a position within the top 50 and assembled into order. You can then make your purchases having stolen a march on all those hardy queuers.'

Do most people buy a single card or the full allocation of four cards?
'Most people who have queued overnight will buy their full allocation but by no means everyone does.'

How about the big reveal when people turn their artworks over?

'It can be very exciting. I can recall still queueing at the sales desk and hearing shrieks of excitement upstairs when someone has got a card they really want. Last year I was lucky enough to find cards by Gerhard Richter and Grayson Perry and, somewhat embarrassingly, I recall falling to my knees, screaming out in joy and punching the air.I put it down to the lack of sleep the previous night!'

Do you think most people buy for themselves or in the hope of selling the works on at a profit?
'I'd say the majority of people buy for themselves. While the odd card has cropped up on the secondary market after the sale they are very few and far between. The sale has been running now for 16 years and in that time roughly 30,000 RCA secret cards have been produced. By my reckoning,and I do keep track, less than 200 have cropped up on eBay or at auction after the sale, a tiny percentage of the total number out there.'

Have you bought big names in past sales? Or do you simply buy work that appeals to you?
'I love contemporary art and the beauty of RCA Secret is that some of my favourite artists regularly contribute work to the sale. So it gives me an opportunity to try to buy original works from them that ordinarily I wouldn't be able to afford. I would never buy a card that I didn't like just because I thought it was by a famous artist. To me that would seem like pointless trophy hunting, and you run the risk of it not being by that artist in any event. In the past I have been lucky enough to get works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter, Grayson Perry, Olafur Eliasson, Mary Fedden and Nick Park amongst many others. But equally some of my favourite cards in my collection are by less well known but nevertheless talented artists. I also have a number of cards that were done by students at the college or other contributors I haven't been able to find out anything about. It doesn't detract from my admiration of the artwork.'

Another independent article

So a second article in the independent today who are clearly loving this years show.  Click here to see it in full.

Which picture is by a famous artist? Answers on a postcard 

By Rob Sharp, Arts Correspondent

How confident are you at distinguishing between the work of an art world legend and that of an unknown student? One of these pictured works, going on sale for £45 next week, has been produced by an A-list British artist. The other five, while no less impressive, are by anonymous rising stars.

This year's Royal College of Art (RCA) Secret show, an annual fundraising exhibition beginning on Friday, has seen an unprecedented number of established artists, including Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry, donate postcard-sized work to the London college. The show will see consumers select unlabelled art on its aesthetic merits. It is only after the sale that purchasers discover whether they have bought a Jake Chapman, a Sir Peter Blake, or the work of one of the RCA's students, which might take several more years to yield its value. A postcard by Peter Doig bought in 2000 later sold at Sotheby's for £42,000.

"The support we have had is overwhelming," said Wilhelmina Bunn, RCA Secret's curator. "Because the exhibition aims to raise funds for student bursaries we've had an especially strong response because people know that now is the time to support artists, who often have to survive with less prospects of immediate work. "

Monday, November 08, 2010

Yinka Shonibare a contributor

The college today announced that Yinka Shonibare is a first time contributor to the show this year. How exciting. I love his work. Also confirmed as contributors are Will Alsop, Sir Terence Conran and Manolo Blahnik.

Meanwhile in other news this blog was suggesting that there will be a total of 2800 cards this year, higher than previous years. However it has now been edited and that figure has been removed?!? Your guess is as good as mine..... All will be revealed on Friday.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Loads of images of cards on the independent website

Woohoo, now this is the stuff.  An article on the independent website (repeated below) and no less than 56 (count em) images of the cards.  Enjoy peeps.

As the major auction houses gear up for their big autumn sales, it appears that despite the recession the art market is picking up steam again. But while Lichtensteins and Warhols are being tipped to sell for tens of millions, those with an eye for a bargain can bag themselves a Tracey Emin or a Grayson Perry for just £45.
Surely there must be several zeros missing from that sum, I hear you cry. But no. The postcard-size gems being purveyed later this month in London’s Kensington include pictures by the aforementioned Emin and Perry, works by Peter Blake, Jake Chapman, Yoko Ono, designer Paul Smith, photographer David Bailey – not to mention a host of other illustrious names – and all for under 50 quid. 

But there is a catch. The 2,500 original artworks on sale at the Royal College of Art in three weeks’ time, each costing £45, are part of the college’s ‘secret sale.’ Collectors buying art will have no idea until after they’ve handed over their cash by whom the painting or drawing they purchased was made. 

Each postcard is signed on the back, so eagle-eyed experts will need to hone their talent-spotting skills to sift the Turner Prize-winners from the art students. Potential investors will be able to view the works on certain days in the week running up to the November 20 sale. 

Proceeds from the sale will go to the RCA Fine Art Student Award Fund. To date, previous ‘secret sales’ have raised more than £1 million.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Angela Lamb on RCA secret

In advance of the sale we caught up with the very talented Angela Lamb about her involvement with the sale.  She is a regular contributor to the show, supporting it every year.  Anyway over to Angela to tell us more.

RCA Secret Blog have asked me to write a small amble about my involvement with RCA Secret, the hows, the whats, the whys. So here I am, albeit a little belatedly but anyway, Ive been involved for awhile, in fact this will be my seventh year, I believe. I've knew about the event some time ago when I was at art college but never quite knew how you got through the entry doors and be part of it, then I stumbled on a classified for it in one of the art magazines and its gone from there. It's quite odd, to think that you’re part of such a well known event and be amongst arts heroes but its great fun too. 

Also quite bizarre how we all end up with running themes each year despite many contributors being involved directly with the college in other ways. Im sure this year will not be an exception either, its always interesting to see what pops up. What I do know is that there’s always been a little game amongst those involved, like an arty ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ where famous and yet-to-be famous artists disguise their styles into that of another well known artist. I think its more for our own amusement rather than to confuse buyers although that’s fun too.  I have been known to participate in that most times but this year is the exception.

Normally, I work to 3 rules for my RCA Secret contributions, 1 artist copycat style, 1 topical/satirical, and finally, 1 of my own style. However, this year, Ive accidentally scribbled out my rules and they’re all my own style and some might say a little cheeky in their own ways, slight hint of burlesque and things. Its taken me a lot more time to do them although I got ideas for them quite quickly, but they’ve taken a lot more drafting than I thought but they’re in. Expect a little glitter, and freehand drawings, sometimes its a little trickier for me to produce a repeat of my drawings so they’ve been a little trial of my skills and patience at moments, but a lot of blasting music at myself has helped at the trickiest moments. To make it a little trickier Ive had to work on these pieces as A3 sketches as it was proving a little too hard in my normal pocket sketchbook. So there’s been many a trial and error thing happening, but its been a good learning curve really, think its good to be able to test yourself a little or a lot every now and again. Think I’ve been partly influenced by my interest in costume as well this year as I often make my own ones along with accessories such as fascinators and I really love the theatre, look and humour of burlesque.

This will also be the first time, I think that all 3 postcards that I’m contributing will be drawn as I tend to mix my media, including photography, illustration, painting, collage on previous submissions. Really looking forward to seeing everyone’s contributions this year, an amazing bundle of names involved this year too, no exceptions and what will everyone have produced I wonder.