Monday, March 23, 2015

My RCA secret 2015

Well another year over.  Here are my thoughts and musings on RCA secret 2015.

With very little publicity about contributing artists before the sale I didn't quite know what to expect when the cards were released on the morning of the the first day of the exhibition.  The fact that the college had engaged 23 (subsequently reduced to 22) curators to source artists for the sale was certainly interesting, as was the fact that the sale was also taking place in Dubai at the same time.  How would this effect the number and quality of contributions?  Who knew.

The day before the sale it became clear that there were 3000 cards in the London sale - the largest number of cards since the 1990s.  And a hell of a lot of cards to look through in just over a week.  With over 1200 cards in Dubai to also look through and review for similarities or omissions from the London sale it was clear there was going to be a lot to do!

It's a shame that there weren't more "big name" well recognised contributors.  It seems that these days with our fickle press they need someone who is a recognised name in order to report on the sale.  It doesn't matter that there are turner prize winners or established international artists - if the name isn't a press worthy name then the press just don't report on the sale.  What's happened to all those contributors who used to contribute to the sale year in and year out - Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Sir Peter Blake, Olafur Eliasson, Manolo Blahnik etc etc? They were the names that got the press excited - made them report the sale and therefore got more people turning up. 

If these contributors aren't coming back then I would suggest that the college make the sale again last 2 days as it used to rather than just the one, and allow people to buy another lot of 4 cards once the queues have gone.  They stopped doing the second day of the sale because there was so little left in the past.  That isn't the case now - there were loads of cards left after the sale this year (see this picture taken the day after the sale ) and I for one would have loved to have come and buy some more.  One of the cards featured in this picture was one of my daughters favourites and I am certain that if we had gone back on Sunday we'd have come away with it, and others beside.  It seems such a shame that beautiful works of art which the artists have spent so much time on are going to waste.
Perhaps also a factor in the number of cards left is the price rises recently.  £55 is getting to be quite a lot for a postcard sized art work.  Obviously it is OK if you are buying a card you absolutely love but I know it's putting people off either from coming to the sale at all or buying their maximum allocation.  The price has gone up £10 in the last two years at a time when salaries aren't rising.  That's far more than inflation and I would urge the college not to raise the price again next year.

Finally on the rant side of things I did hear quite a lot of negative talk about the sponsorship of the sale.  I totally get the need for the college to maximise revenue from the sale for the benefit of the bursaries that the sale provides.  Does is have to be called "Stewarts Law RCA secret" though?  It's a bit like changing the name of the FA cup.  Maybe it's uncommercial of me to say so but I kinda like the fact that RCA secret was so stand out different from the rest of the highly sponsored commercial contemporary art world.

Anyway I certainly don't want any of my comments to be seen as critical of those organising the sale who once again did a fantastic job.  Well done to the college.

After only having had a fleeting glimpse of the cards on Sunday, when I came with my two daughters and spent most of the time helping them perfect their lists, I was eagerly looking forward to Friday and a day spent browsing the cards.  I turned up first thing on Friday morning and pitched my tent one behind Mike and one in front of John who turned up a few minutes after me.

As usual a happy day was spent with the usual suspects reviewing the cards - pointing out likes and dislikes and generally catching up with RCA secret friends old and new.  In addition to the usual suspects it was great to meet Lisa - whose written a fascinating  blog post about her sale experiences and the cards she bought.

Turfing out time was soon upon us with the the box of raffle tickets being taken upstairs.  We then turned to what John described as the "phone stare of despair" with everyone standing around looking intently at their phone screens and waiting for the call that we were all hoping for.  The raffle certainly does add an additional element of excitement to the end of the day.  I didn't get the call but news filtered through that my dad had, as had queue regular Chris and John's wife Eunju, together with a number of others dotted around us in the queue.

Once all the raffle winners had been notified we sloped off for a drink in the local pub and then a pizza, as Chris told us what he was likely to try and pick up in the raffle.

I didn't sleep much at all that night, a combination of the noise from the nearby nightclub bunga bunga and the fact that despite it being warmer than previous years it was still pretty cold sleeping on the street, I think I need to follow the tip of mark who said he slept really well with a sleeping bag plus three duvets on top of him.

Anyway come 6 ish I became aware that people were beginning to pack up their tents and form an orderly queue (really not sure this needs to be done so early but there we are).  By 7ish, after my usual agonies of folding my pop up tent back up (thanks to the helpful fellow queuer for his assistance) we were lined up outside the college.  Is it me or was this the coldest part of the day?  By the time the college opened up the doors at 8.11 I could barely feel my feet.

In a new innovation raffle winners were processed in a different location in the sculpture building before being taken via the front entrance of the college.  This actually worked really well and was far better organised than last year so hats off to whomever came up with that plan.

By the time I got to the front of the queue I hadn't had time to cross of many cards on my list (college - can we have screens in places where the queuers can see them - makes a big difference to how long someone is at the sales desk?).

It was mostly a family year as I chose my daughters two favourite cards amongst the four picks which were:

A lovely doggie by Holly frean.  My daughter's favourite card which will go nicely with the art menagerie that is her bedroom - dogs, cats, rabbits, fish, chameleons etc.

A card by Alison Wilding which really shows off her sculptural talents I think.  I was really pleased to get this.

A beautiful blue landscape by Joanna whittle, my other daughters favourite, but it got the whole families seal of approval.  Such a fantastic little painting.

And finally a blue jellyfish painting by Mimei Thompson (although possibly partially inspired by cactus roots).  Such a great painting.

And my dad.  Well, he did rather well too!

So all in all another fantastic year. Despite the minor gripes and suggestions for the college, we all love and are passionate about the RCA secret sale.  I look forward to getting my cards framed and seeing you all again for RCA secret 2016!

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