Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Article in BMI Voyager

The latest edition of the BMI Voyager magazine has a piece about the RCA secret.  If anyone can get hold of a hard copy of this for me I would be very grateful.  Click here to see the article, which is reproduced below.

Luck of the draw

SOLICITOR PERRY HILL IS REMEMBERING THE MOMENT HE DISCOVERED he’d bought an original Grayson Perry and a Gerhard Richter for less than £100. ‘I fell to my knees,’ he admits, slightly shamefaced. ‘But it was so exciting.’ Hill is a regular at RCA Secret, held at the Royal College of Art each November and now in its 18th year.

Some 2,800 postcard-sized works are up for grabs, each priced at £45. Some of the contributors are art-world heavyweights such as David Bailey and Tracey Emin, others unknown RCA students. As the cards are signed on the reverse, you don’t find out who your purchases are by until you’ve handed over the cash. (Can you spot which of the postcards, right, are by big names? For answers, see far right.)

The artists’ identities are closely guarded, says curator Wilhelmina Bunn. ‘We’ve got a staff of just two people and will never tell the secret. We have student helpers, but they’re not allowed to handle the work.’

The postcards are on display at the RCA and online from 18 November, with the sale on Saturday 26

The doors open at 8am, and each collector is limited to four cards. Competition is fierce for the early places in the queue, and while the first 50 spots are raffled off by the college, after that it’s first come, first served. ‘Some people camp for five or six days,’ says Hill. ‘I’ve never done more than 24 hours though.’ Others turn up in the early morning, resigned to a long wait.

Most of the big-name artists stick to their signature style and themes, says Bunn, which means pieces by the likes of Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry are soon snapped up. Nonetheless, sharp-eyed latecomers can sometimes make spectacular finds. ‘Among so many cards, it’s easy to miss something,’ confirms Hill. ‘If I showed you my Damien Hirst, you’d look at it and think, “Yes, that’s obviously by Hirst.” It wasn’t so obvious when it was one card among 2,800.’

In 2007, a card by Peter Doig sold at Sotheby’s for £42,000 and a skull drawn by Hirst fetched £15,600. Most collectors prefer to hold on to their purchases, though. Hill is no exception. ‘Never say never, because you don’t know what’s around the corner, but I’d love to keep them all and leave them to my children. That’s my legacy to them.’ Elizabeth Winding

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