Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Thoughts on the queuers

It is interesting to read the comments at the bottom of the independent article by two posters who clearly believe that there are dealers who operate at RCA secret, and that it is those "dealers" who queue for the longest periods.

I wonder whether this is a common held belief and thought I would like to dispel some myths that have clearly built up.  The first and most obvious point is that RCA secret is not a closed shop.  The college have worked very hard to ensure that the sale is open to everyone.  Everyone has the same chance of winning the raffle, provided they buy the maximum of ten pounds worth of tickets, and the cards are sold on a first come first served basis.  It is open to most to queue although I fully accept that this is not an option for everyone and understand in particular that this method of sale is frustrating for those who are physically unable to queue or are based overseas.  Each year new people join the queue and are welcomed by queue regulars.

It is difficult to see how the college could make the sale fairer.  Certainly any sort of online sale would be a disaster as we know from sales of tickets online and limited editions prints (such as Banksy releases) that there are some very technically IT savvy people who would be able to ensure that any such sale was heavily weighted in their favour.  Likewise any extension of the raffle process would almost certainly give the college an even bigger headache than the current set up.   So in an imperfect world the college do have the best system for selling the cards.

As to the presence of dealers in the queue I really don't think this happens.  As regular readers of this blog know I queue overnight for RCA secret and therefore don't queue for some of the ridiculous amounts of time that others do.  Nevertheless having done it for so many years I have met virtually everyone who queues overnight or longer.  And I can assure you that I have not met dealers who do so.  When Gerhard Richter contributed in 2009 there was a chap from a Parisian gallery who queued just to buy the Richters, but he is the only dealer I have met in the queue.  Everyone else is simply a committed art lover.  Many of them are based outside London and use the show week to camp for their cards and also catch up on the vibrant London art scene.  There are plenty of conversations in the queue about the current show at Tate modern or whatever, and about art generally.  

If there were lots of dealers in the queue then why aren't there more secondary sales of cards?  You can count on the fingers of 2 hands the number of cards each year that are sold on, and the vast majority of these are sales on ebay for less than the cost price of the card.  Sure there is the occasional stand out sale of a card at auction but most of these are cards which featured in sales many years previously that people have held on to and then been forced to sell for financial reasons.  I know for example of one regular queuer who sadly passed away a few years ago.  His family did not share his passion for RCA secret and needed the money so his cards mostly ended up at auction.

Also it is a mistake to believe that people at the front of the queue are only there to buy cards by the big name artists.  Sure some of them are but I have seen plenty of their purchases directly after the sale and there is a strong proportion of cards that have been bought simply for the love of the card.  I know of a number of people who queue for significant periods of time and, when they get to the front of the queue deliberately eschew cards they know to be by big name artists in favour of cards that they have fallen in love with.

It's a cynical world we live in and full of conspiracy theories and greed.  I'm not saying RCA secret is perfect but it is in my opinion the closest thing the contemporary art world has to democratising art ownership.  And that's one of the reasons I love it so much.


Post Lee said...

As I sit in my modest flat I take a look around the walls and beside the little collection of RCA postcards, that I have built up since attending the sale for the first time in 2002, I see;

A Peter Blake Art Car boot fair print, a Polly Morgan sculpture, again from the same boot fair, a vintage 1956 Vespa scooter which I commissioned Dan Baldwin to paint (although thats actually in my bedroom!), a C215 original stencil, an original Steve & Chris Rocks oil (if you haven't heard of them you must check them out! Identical twins.), a Space Invader AP 'Scream' woodcut, 6 original drawings by Nathan Bowen (The Apprentice) and numerous POW limited edition screen prints. Yes, I want the whole World to know I love art!

The point I'm making is that I'm not a dealer.

If I was I wouldn't own and love all the aforementioned art. (We won't mention all the original Banksy canvases I sold, in an effort to prop up my failing business, which sadly ended in bankruptcy). I do it for the love of Art, plain and simple.

I will be arriving for the RCA sale on the evening of Tuesday 19 March and will be there until the morning of the sale. I don't do this for financial rewards or because I want a big name, although I would dearly love to own a Grayson Perry. I do it because I am fanatical about art and I love the whole experience of queuing for the sale, the camaraderie and friendships that you strike up. I have several people that I have met, over the years, and we meet up in the queue every year.

The queue, for me, is now almost as important and as big a draw as the sale itself!

So when you cynics pass by on Wednesday or Thursday and think we're all dealers, think again and go and buy us a Hot Chocolate, because we have an illness, we're poor art collectors!

Nurse! NURSE!

pezlow said...

Great comment, thank you.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely comment

kay jones said...

I think they could make it fairer by selling lottery tickets on line or over the telephone , we don't all live in London nor can we afford to either travel down twice or stay over night ,definitely favours you if you live in London imo