Artvehicle 46 — Editorial

I don't know why I was invited to send some postcards in to the Royal College of Art's Secret Postcard exhibition a few years ago but I was, so I did and I was proud to do so and felt dead special. Maybe I would have taken my mum along to pick mine out on the racks but only the artist gets invited to the 'try-to-find-your-work-with-a-glass-of-bubbly' PV. No plus-ones or admits-two on this event and, with over 1,000 artists who can blame them? I never went down again of course and doubt many do, but that's still got to be 300 plus pitching up to see their work hung (propped) in the RCA.

Little bit of careful drawing I put together that first year - most apt for the Royal College I felt, and I'm not alone. That, and every year there's a fine contingent of trompe l'oeil pencil drawings - torn envelopes showing money, coffee cup stains, the RCA crest, blobs of paint, year one is all about slaving over a drawing board and doing something that will get you discovered and taken away from all the drudgery. You'll be a world-famous trompe l'oeil postcard artist - it's gonna be great.

Now I do them in front of the telly or on trains. It's a nice little discipline, think of an idea, five or six minutes each, bit of a test for something you're doing anyway. Did a few adverts for Artvehicle a few years ago, doubt anyone rushed up to the counter thinking they were Mr. Richter's new direction but apparently they went on the wall.

Yes, I've paid my dues with the Royal College, I've sent them over ten postcards and that's £400 at today's prices, that's a couple of brightly-coloured, uncomfortable chairs for their bar at least. What I want now is some closure. There's lots of press beforehand and pictures of tents in the street but what happens next, what are the stats?

I dropped a line to Wilhelmina Bunn, Curator at RCA Secret, in reply to her nice email that explained that due to uncertainties caused by the postal strikes, they had changed the deadline to 22 October. They also hoped that this would encourage me to contribute, if I had not already. Which I had not, already, but I was going up to Bristol by train the following weekend so I would soon. It was concluded: Thank you, as ever, for supporting RCA SECRET.

I sent a little questionnaire, nothing formal, just to find out the answers to a few nagging questions. Sadly Ms. Bunn never replied, well thank you Wilhelmina for your RECIPROCAL SUPPORT. The questionnaire is below. Without an inside informant to provide answers it was left to my skills as an investigative journalist to discover the details.

Artvehicle RCA Secret Questionnaire
Please answer the following questions. Where ever possible please give details, any anecdotal thoughts and opinions welcome, you may remain anonymous, particularly if it means you will give more interesting/exciting answers.

1. How many artists are invited?
I don't know the answer to this

2. How many artists send in postcards?
1,019 artists or pairs (there were seven pairs of artist collaborating on their postcards)

3. How many postcards in total?
2700 are on the website - that's 2.64 per artist. Artists are sent 3 cards, thought famous artist may get more because Gerhard Richter did 6.

4. How much money was raised?
From various blogs we know that all but 30 were definitely sold and people were still buying at that point. That is £106,800+.

5. Approximately how many postcards can't be shown because they are (and please give details):
Too rude:
Have elements of food or other degradable material on them:
Break copyright rules:
Are nasty about the RCA:
Are libellous about public figures Are too big
Cruel to animals

I couldn't find any information about this

6. Do famous artist generally do hasty/scribbley postcards?
Yes, mostly. Tracy Emin did four pen drawings of naked people, Grayson Perry did four pink and black pen drawings of people and shoes. Yoko Ono did one doodley piece with 'imagine peace' and a sun on it. Julian Opie did a person in black pen too, with a neck, perhaps to throw people off the scent. Richard Wentworth did some colleges with French postcards and thoughtfully popped a five euro note in each one, and Gerhard Richter submitted six little abstract oils, suggesting he has recently been inter-railing.

That's 18 cards, 7 of people, which is 31% which is way above average.
Paul Smith and Grayson Perry both did shoes, which don't even have a category of their own so that's my tip for next year - buy shoes.

7. As an approximate percentage, how many less famous artists try to do postcards that look like they might be postcards by famous artists?
Not as many as you would think, for example there were very few skulls, cigarettes or butterflies in evidence this year.

8. As an approximate percentage, how may artist do trompe l'oeil postcards?

Please rate in order of popularity:

9. Medium:
Paint - 34%
Coloured pencil - 25%
Felt tip - 21%
Collage - 11%
Photo - 9%

10. Subject:
Abstract - 29%
Still life/object - 15%
Landscape - 13%
Animals - 12%
Buildings (outside) - 9%
People - 8%
Pattern - 4%
Faces - 4%
Buildings (inside) - 3%
Text - 2%
Flowers - 1%

11. How many were left at the end?
I don't know the answer to this

12. What happened to them?
I don't know the answer to this

13. What if they were by a famous person?
I don't know the answer to this

14. Was mine left at the end?
I don't know the answer to this

15. Do you always ask people again the next year?
I don't know the answer to this

16. If not why not?
I don't know the answer to this

Sixteen questions, of which I have been able to answer a could-do-better 50%. By this time next year I hope to have more hard information to share. If I am invited again (question 15) I plan to staple some bacon to one card, glue this text to another and attach the third to a large, naked pigeon that looks like Geoff Koons. - that will give us something to analyse.

In this months bumper, get you through Christmas, Artvehicle, Phil Harris reviews Matt Collishaw at the Freud Museum, Ed Atkins reviews Anthony Green at Limoncello, Judith Carlton takes on the Museum of Everything and Richard Whitby discusses Omer Fast's video installation at South London Gallery. In a linked piece Ed Atkin's Aside, discusses Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. Elsewhere, Lee Campbell feature reviews the work of four UK painters as part of his recent series IN DISCUSSION and Natalie Hope O'Donnell sends a postcard from New York.

On 8 January, don't miss the opening of norn's 'Scapegoat Society', an international multi-disciplinary exhibition exploring the role of the scapegoat in contemporary culture, at Guest Projects in Hackney. Scapegoating is a hostile process in which people attempt to absolve themselves from culpability by transferring blame onto a target person or group. Sadly, this age-old phenomenon is as prevalent today as it was in the times of witch-hunts. The exhibition explores the way in which society's fears are propagated through the media and how artists rework the role of the scapegoat by transforming victimisation into a positive representation. 'Scapegoat Society' will be the inaugural show at Yinka Shonibare's space Guest Projects. A programme of performances and talks will accompany the exhibition. Please see for full details.

Artvehicle will be back in January 2010...

Adrian Lee