Sunday, March 30, 2014

RCA secret timeline - help needed

Now that the dust has settled for another year on the sale I'm after your help. I'm trying to piece together a timeline of the 20 sales. I'm quite good on most things post 2000 but would be grateful for any help particularly before that time. I'm especially interested in things like

The cost of cards each particular year
Notable contributors for each year
Sponsors such as Bowieart and Absolut - when they started and stopped sponsoring the exhibition
Whether the show was always held in the Gulbenkian gallery?
How many cards were shown each year

Anything else of note.

If you think you can help please post a comment on the blog or tweet me @rcasecretblog. Many thanks in advance.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My RCA Secret 2014

So all over for another year.  Here is the story of my Rca Secret 2014.

A quiet year I think for publicity prior to the sale commencing.  A couple of articles in time out and the independent and a quick feature on ITV London news (which got a lot of the facts wrong) was pretty much all the information that we got before the show opened.  The college kept the guessing game going by posting tweets and facebook posts with references to loads of artists who had previously contributed.  Did this mean they were contributing again?  Without anything concrete to go on theories abounded and rumours started (including one by ITV that Banksy was contributing).  The media are strange about these things.  The sale does need a Tracey Emin or a Damien Hirst type contributor to give it the attention it deserves.  A shame really given the legion of artists who donate every year without fail.

Of course none of that stopped me from being ridiculously excited when the cards were released online.  I spent the next few days eagerly looking through and noting my favourites before a trip to see them in person on Sunday.  As usual this was the first chance for my two girls to make a note of their favourite cards and they spent a happy few hours writing their list and prioritising it.  This is why the raffle is so great.  My girls love RCA secret (see the drawing Carys did below) and with the raffle going on they actually get a chance to get the cards that they want, being too young to queue.

Eventually the day of the sale turned up and I woke bright and breezy and got a cab down to the college.  Directly in front of me in the queue was John, who’d just finished setting up his tent.  Adam was already there and emerged bleary eyed from his tent having camped the night before.  Most of the other usual suspects were around and it was good to catch up with so many friendly faces.

As usual the next few hours passed happily examining the cards with a break for lunch and regular trips out to check on the tent and the queue.  It was difficult this year as there were a group of tents outside the college but then the queue continued (after a huge break) turning right down a side road.  The big gap was due to one of the college’s officious neighbours who didn’t want the queue on their land (even though it was only for one day).  I tried to post on twitter where people should queue but it is entirely understandable that people didn’t get it and therefore there was a constant stream of people who had to be told they weren’t queuing in the same place.  The college promised some security for the queue but there certainly wasn’t anyone there for most of day or indeed for the night – I did see two chaps by the main door about 4am but they didn’t hang around and it was left to me and Chris to direct people arriving in the middle of the night.  If there are similar issues with the queue next year perhaps the college could post a sign or have some security staff on duty?

Once the college closed up we all hung around, mobile phones in hand, to await the winning raffle call.  I got a text to say that my daughter had won, she was so excited, and then news filtered through of others in front of me in the queue who had also had the lucky call.  Once all the raffle winners were notified off we went for a few fortifying drinks and then pizza with John and Chris (thanks Chris!) before coming back and polishing off a bottle of Chris’s excellent home made Sloe Gin.  I then managed to get a few hours kip before waking at 3.45.  Thanks to a queue neighbour for the excellent tip about the 24 hour garage serving coffee and thanks (again) to chris who, unprompted, came back with a cup of coffee for me.

Around about 6am everyone started packing up.  The fantastic blogger Lisa has pondered on her excellent blog why everyone feels the need to pack up so early.  I think Lisa the reason was there was a steady flow of people trying to join the back of the small queue outside the college and we felt that the best way of stopping this from happening was to form a proper queue.  I do agree that it is the worst bit though, the standing around in a proper queue and then seeing the raffle winners arrive to queue jump in front of you.

When the raffle winners did arrive there was a fair amount of confusion.  In previous years raffle winners have been called inside and then their names read out to join their place in the queue.  That’s certainly what happened the year I won it.  This year someone stood outside the college and called out the raffle winners names.  But they were all crushed up together and with the background traffic noise no-one could hear the names being called.  One poor winner, a woman was at the back of the crush, kept shouting “we can’t hear”.  Virtually inevitably it was her name that was missed so that instead of her being called to go up 3rd she ended up going in second last, although I gather she did manage to ensure that she was promoted back up the queue when going into the room with the tills.  This unpleasantness would have been avoided if the college had adopted the system them had in the previous years.  Hopefully they will go back to that next year J

Finally my daughter was called last, 50th Place.  I wasn’t too concerned as I thought she had a pretty good chance of getting the cards she wanted from there anyway.

The raffle winners were starting to collect their artworks from the gallery.  We could see the first person in the raffle queue collecting his 3 cards by Paula Rego and 1 by Grayson Perry.  News gradually filtered down the queue of other cards that had been sold.   My daughter eventually emerged and told me what she had which was:

Her favourite card which was a drawing of a blue bird (her favourite colour) by Jenny Graham.

A card for her sister who unbeknown to me had changed her mind overnight about what her favourite card was.  She had originally gone for a card of a dog with a multi-coloured ruff but then decided to go for this ingenious 3d keyboard work by an artist called Andrew Campbell.

A card for my other half, Lisa, which was an abstract painting by Paul Davis

And a card for me by Gordon Cheung.

Finally after a wait we were in and went upstairs.  It felt like an age waiting for me to have my turn but I eventually got to the front of the queue and bought for myself:

A painting by Caroline Walker, one of my absolute favourite cards from the show, which looks good online but so much better in the flesh.

A drawing by Rose Wylie of Nicole Kidman’s back and black strap.  I posted on this blog how much I like Rose Wylie’s work so was very pleased to get it.

The only card done this year by Mali Morris.  A fantastic abstract that is absolutely typical of her work – a miniature version of some of her paintings I have seen at shows before.  I was very surprised and delighted that this card was left.

Finally, a painting for Lisa, by Andor Komives.  I have to say I found these cards a little disturbing, but Lisa loved them.

So all in all another good year and I am very happy with the outcome again.  A few minor things for the college to please sort out (some security for the queue would be great!) but in general big thanks to the college (and the contributing artists) for another fantastic show.  Roll on RCA secret 2015.

Do let me know your RCA secret stories.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The morning after

Morning all, hope everyone had a good (better!) night sleep.  What a wonderful show the college put on again.  Thanks so much to the college for all their work and the contributing artists for their amazing works.

Here's some news articles about the sale:

The independent

BBC London News


Press Images of the sale.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Wow, that was very tiring wasn't it.  The hail in the middle of the night was an unpleasant surprise.  But as usual I think the vast majority of queuers came away happy.  Will post more later and keep an eye out for any sales related press reports.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Good luck all

Just 48 hours to the sale now I just wanted to wish everyone the very best of luck with this years selections.  I'll be around on friday and camping overnight, unless I get the luck call, so come over and find me and say hello :)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

What can happen at the RCA Secret

I love this story by a contributor who would prefer to stay anonymous.

The year was 2010. I’d been on many nights out in London and was getting bored of the monotony of going to Camden and just drinking on a Friday night whilst recovering from a hangover on a Saturday, trying to focus some bleary vision on Jeff Stelling and the football scores. I’d decided that, after living in the city for 5 years, I’d do something cultural for the weekend.

So I picked up the Guardian in the week and found a small notice for an interesting event involving postcards. I googled it and was drawn to the little pieces of art and the chance to own a Grayson Perry or a Tracy Emin artwork. For £45, it seemed worth it and I settled that, on this Saturday, I’d make the effort and head there. There’d be no drinking of alcohol, no Friday night out. Just a nice early Saturday morning wake up and then off to Kensington way to queue for some postcards. It couldn’t be that big an event and it’d be nice to do.

I’d picked about 11 cards online that looked nice and wrote down their numbers. My boss also got in on the act, asking me to pick up a few for her. She handed me a list of about 100 postcards. I couldn’t believe how excessive she’d been with her number of choices.

Friday came and inevitably my house mates managed to disrupt my plans and took me out for a drink. But I was steady about it. I had postcards to buy. Much to their amusement at 5 o’clock I was still up and turning bleary eyed. Decision time. Should I go?

When I looked in my wardrobe there wasn’t much in the way of clean warm clothes. I settled on an old pair of flared jeans, a red hoody and a battered old coat that looked like it had once been Inspector Gadget’s but after his messages had exploded. But I was going to queue for a postcard for a couple of hours, it wouldn’t matter. Off I went.

The early morning tube was deserted. Then I arrived. The queue was tiny. Had I got the right event? Was it the right time? Would it be busier later in the day? I joined the queue anyway, only for an incredibly nice bouncer (for 6:30am) to tell me that these were the raffle winners. My queue was the one to the left. The one that had people in tents waiting. The one that snaked round the block. The one that incredibly twisted out of sight round smart London streets. I’d presumed that queue had been for some event at the Royal Albert Hall. Drunken thoughts are not always to be trusted.

At this point the alcohol inside me was thinking that, instead of standing at the end of the unending queue on this cold autumnal morning, I could return home, get into bed, wake at 2 to some autumnal sunshine. My head had to fight it. Surely it’d be worth checking how long the queue was?

So I went and had a look. It went on and on and on and on. When it finally did end, people joining had the same confused expression I did. Until we each realised that by dithering we’d potentially lose our little masterpiece to the person in front of us. So we then rushed to be there.

It’s been said that it’s a very British thing to queue. This queue confirmed that. The range of characters was quite weird, quaint, tragic and wonderful. There were apparent queue professionals, a man who queued for some Elton John memorabilia or any Apple event, the wide boys who seemed to have come for a slight jolly and the studious women who were comparing pictures of the tiny thumbnails they’d printed at home against art books they had in their hands, hoping to get the Tracy Emin. At the best of times I’d struggle to make conversation with these strangers and, although I gave it a go, it felt like I’d be stood there for hours listening to the dwindling iPhone in my pocket.

Then one of the women piped up saying she’d go to Starbucks for everyone if we kept her queue place. She was very keen on some type of macchiato. On this cold morning, many people were taken with the offer. Not being a coffee fan, I didn’t need her help. She must have collected about 7 people’s orders and about £60 in total. Then she left. For hours. London has a Starbucks about every 5 minutes (or so it feels like) and the group began to worry. How well could you trust this queue person? She hadn’t expressed an interest in any Tracy Emin, was she just a well-dressed thief? Should we send a search party to find her? Does anyone really remember what she looked like? This one woman generated about 2 hours’ worth of conversation. Lady Starbucks– great thief or hopeless coffee finder?

As we progressed on at the pace of a Royal Mail delivered postcard (terrible analogy, forgive me) I suddenly felt something weird. That feeling of when you’re being watched. But who’d want to look at little old me, in red hoody, flair jeans and rag and bone man coat. I turned around. Was Postcard Paranoia a thing? Like Stockholm Syndrome? Then I noticed her. A woman in more layers than are humanly possible to put on, hidden under a cream bobble hat, every so often peeking up from her book and then swiftly back down again. I thought nothing of it. Queue nutter perhaps. The queue moved on. Lady Starbucks still hadn’t returned and people were getting the onset of caffeine withdrawal. Conversation had slowed. Yet still I was being watched by this bobble hatted book peeker. I tried to muster a smile, but quickly she darted back behind the book. Then, with everyone’s obvious onset of coffee rage, bobble hat piped up. She had a canister of coffee. People were saved. Though I insist (and she’ll deny) that she offered me the first coffee. Some kind of “can I buy you a drink” move. Foolishly I declined. I don’t like coffee. I then stood for 17 minutes berating myself that a woman may have shown some interest in me and I’d declined the chance to talk to her because I didn’t like coffee. And now I was standing in silence. I bit the bullet. “I will have some of that coffee.”

For the next few hours we talked and laughed about many things. We both discovered that we had a wishlist totalling about 13 cards, when others had hundreds, we both debated where Lady Starbucks had gone (I think we agreed on fled the country to rent Ronnie Biggs’s place in Brazil), we ate the beautiful cakes her sister had made and we waited for ages for the queue to get anywhere near the door. She’d even suggested we have a drink after, an offer I’m told I was luke warm on at the time.

We were about twelve feet away from the door, excitement was building. Both bobble hat and I were excited. Finally we’d get one of the 13 cards we wanted. And Lady Starbucks arrived with everyone’s drink. Hoorah.

Going in was a weird experience. Another long queue that looked like it snaked round an Escher painting. We waited on stairs, we ate more cake, we talked more about how she definitely would get a Grayson Perry and debated more about the potential lives of our queue mates. Some we deduced were pirates, some were spies and others were rebelling against the machine in an orderly fashion. (Sleep deprivation may have taken hold).

Then, as with everyone’s first time at the Secret, our hearts sank. A plasma TV was killing the dreams of every queuer; showing how their postcards had already been sold. My eleven had been bought. I think her 2 had also gone. Quickly I needed a back up. So I stood by the plasma, slowly shuffling the queue along, determining what would be my new card. I had a few numbers quickly jotted down. Then we were at the tills paying for our new works of art.

Perhaps foolishly, I hadn’t been to the exhibition beforehand, so coming away from the tills and heading to the gallery area was a real treat. It involved going upstairs and there was something, I don’t know, eye opening about entering this miniature gallery from below. All these cards, many replaced with blue bits of paper, all these works were quite joyful really.

Bobble hat and I found a lady who went and got our cards. Unveiling time. I got a mini master piece by Jan Roe. I didn’t have a clue who Jan Roe was. To be honest I wouldn’t have had a clue who Richard Long was. Bobble hat also got someone who she didn’t know of, but hers were meant as gifts. Then she offered up that drink again. Why not. We went to a pub in Kensington. By now it was 1pm, yet for us this felt like 9pm. We sat in the bar and used our phones (in the days before 3G!) to google our artists. We chatted and drank and talked some more and even managed some conversations that weren’t about postcards. (Luckily she liked football). We even found the attention of another couple sat opposite us: she was a bubbly talker, he a military looking - evil stare eyes type who spoke very little. Then we realised that the Eroticism convention was happening at Earls Court. 

These swingers were trying to recruit us. To their disappointment we declined.

We stayed out until 1 am, and went our separate way but agreed to keep in touch and probably next see each other next year at the Secret.

3 years later and we still do go to the Secret and add to our collections. Though this year we’ll be taking our daughter with us for the first time, hoping to add to the Jan Roe on our wall at home.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Banksy NOT a contributor

Contrary to what you may have seen on ITV last night the college have confirmed to me that Banksy is definitely NOT a contributor to RCA secret this year. The ITV news reporter simply got it wrong (along with a couple of other things in her report!).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RCA Secret in the news

A busy old day on the news front with the sale opening tomorrow.

Firstly the sale was featured in creative review with some images of cards we haven't seen before.

Secondly there was a piece in I-D magazine, again with more new images.

And finally a piece in Conde Nast Traveller.

I bet we can't wait until the show opens tomorrow. Should be fun!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

2900 cards!

A short article in the financial times today tells us that there will be 2900 cards for sale this year - up there with the highest numbers of cards for sale in recent times (although in the 1990s there were a couple of years when 3000 cards plus were sold). It also tells us that Julian Opie is a contributor again. Finally there's images of a couple of cards we've not seen before.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Article in time out with images of some cards

There's an article in time out about the sale which is pretty unremarkable. BUT is does have a few images of some of the cards that will be exhibited. Click here to access.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Paula Rego and David Bailey confirmed as contributors

The college have confirmed on twitter that Paula Rego and David Bailey have once again contributed to the sale.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Small piece in the independent today

There's a small piece about the sale in the independent on sunday today. Full text repeated below

Answers on a postcard

The RCA’s Secret sale celebrates its 20th birthday this year. As usual, prospective art collectors will pay £50 for a postcard-sized work of art that could be by someone established (Grayson Perry, Jeremy Deller and Zaha Hadid) or might be the work of an RCA student or graduate. The works are available to view – without knowing who did what, of course – from 22 March, but one of this year’s established contributors has a point to make about the whole venture.

Pete Fowler is known for his Monsterism series of toys and merchandise. When asked why he has donated work for this year’s event, he says: “It’s a cause I’m happy to help as support of the arts is under attack and we must counter attack!” Right on! Changing the world, one postcard at a time.