Monday, March 25, 2013

My RCA Secret 2013

I waited, it rained.  I queued, it froze.  I shivered it snowed. 

I've been coming to RCA Secret for around 13 years now but never have experienced such cold in the queue.  When the college moved the sale from November 2012 to March 2013 I was very disappointed that there would be no sale in 2012 but consoled myself with the certainty that it was bound to be warmer in the queue than in late November.  How wrong I was.

But more of that later.   Preparations for the sale were, perhaps in comparison with previous years, a little muted.  There didn't seem to be as much media coverage before, and not quite as many exciting contributors to get everyone talking in advance of the sale.  Nevertheless by the time the college released the cards on a thursday morning (after some problems with the website) I was excited, as I guess were many of the readers of this blog.

The new venue was, there is no doubt, a gem.  It's only drawback, being a long way from any tube, was more than made up for the contemporary feel of the venue and the natural light on the cards, even on a very grey day in March.  I'd been with the family as usual on the Sunday to check out the cards in the flesh and to buy raffle tickets.  The kids made a list in the hope that they might be drawn in the raffle that year as well.  The next few days were spend eagerly awaiting the sale date.

I turned up for the sale queue around 8am on Friday.  Already there were, I guess, around 15 tents in front of me, perhaps more.  I spotted a few old friends from previous years queues and renewed acquaintance as we waited for the doors to open for the last day's viewing.  Once opened everyone piled into the sale room to look at the cards and keep warm, it was already bitterly cold.  A happy day was spent viewing cards and checking on the tent to make sure it hadn't blown away in the seemingly gale force wind that was whipping round the courtyard where the tents were located.

Everyone was talking about the where the cards by Rego and Opie were hidden.  As this years big contributors to the sale they were the big "finds" and were, unlike previous years contributions from those artists, tough nuts to crack.  Of course there were many other quality offerings on display and we discussed the merits of numerous cards as we came to them.  Tipping out time came at 6pm and we went into the wilds of rainswept Battersea.  By that stage the courtyard where the queue was located resembled a scene from Gandhi as tents and people were everyone, milling around in little groups, anxiously clutching their mobile phones in their un-gloved and hence virtually frost bitten hands.  Alas no winning raffle call for me although Adam, one of my regular queue friends did get the call and quickly packed up his tent to go home. 

After a quick spot of food and some fortifying whisky I settled down for the night.  It was tough, I really do take my hat off to those rough sleepers on London's streets.  I have the luxury of a tent, sleeping bag, thermals, money in my pocket and the knowledge I can go home in 12 hours, how they do it day after day is simply beyond me.  I didn't sleep much.  It was too cold and wet and the constant drip dripping of water from my tent and the noise from the nightclub next door to the college put paid to any ideas of a peaceful night.  After a couple of hours of tossing and turning I got up and had a chat with some old timers of the sale and some newbies, exchanging advice and guidance and (wrongly it turned out) confidently advising what in my view was the Margaret Calvert contribution - sorry!

Eventually, finally, after a seemingly interminable wait, daybreak came.  And with it the snow, starting softly but eventually coming down in great white drifts, landing on our already wet clothes.  "Rather snow than rain" said a neighbour and I couldn't disagree.

The inevitable queue barger turned up, resolute in his refusal to see logic and common sense, determined that he had a god given right to push in past people who had been queuing for 4 days.  Predictably he got told by security to go, and eventually did, arms crossed and huffy.  Then after a few more minutes where my feet seemed to part company with my body we were finally into the warmth of the college, along a long corridor and into the sale room where the usual crossing off of card numbers from our lists began in earnest.  Within a few moment I was there at the front of the queue, with the majority of my first choices already sold.  Four cards purchased then into the sale room where the cards were collected.  And so I got:

I got a card by Ron Fuller who was a contemporary of David Hockney at the RCA. The card is a photo of Hockney in a waistcoat taken by Fuller. I'm very pleased with it as it is a piece of art history, and may write more about this later.

I also got an Alan Kitching and a Ryan Mosley. My fourth card was a beautiful painting. I had no idea who it was by when I bought it and it is by Zadie Xa, an first year fine art student at the college.  I am delighted with my purchases which will be framed and go on one of the already art laden walls in my home. 

Would I do it again, you betcha, although I wasn't saying that until I'd thawed! 

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