#63 Gamble on Art

>> Monday, 4 January 2010

I had been forewarned coming to the UK that the British love queuing some would hazard it is a nation obsessed with queuing for just about anything. Before I had even cleared immigration at Heathrow airport I was indoctrinated into this great British tradition with a polite and ordering queue for over an hour and a half simply to have my passport stamped. No queries. No interrogation. Just a quick stamp and your on your way. By why the excessive queue??

In summer time the Brits aren't obsessed with the Ashes and Wimbledon. They adore the opportunity to queue outside in good weather for seemingly hours on end! At Wimbledon you even get a ticket / memento of your time in the queue so you can remember the occasion with grandkids in years to come!

Anyway the Royal College of Art decided that it was not fair that sporty types get all the fun, so invented the RCA Secret Postcard. Famous artists create postcard sized works of art that go on sale for £40 each. The catch is the artist is not revealed until after you have bought one and the sale starts at 9am on a November Saturday morning.

We joined the 2009 queue shortly after 7.30am having been out the night before and struggled to drag our hung over heads out of bed. When we found the queue stretching around the entire RCA building we realised we should have in fact not gone home from Crazy Bear at midnight but should have come and stood in queue. The art folk deprived of the opportunity to queue on a regular basis take this business pretty seriously.

At 10am after some bacon butties and caffeine our feet were starting to get a little sore and the cold was penetrating every pore but worst of all we hadn't really moved.

Circa midday we entered the building. The joyous moment was short lived as the postcard gallery was only feet away but RCA had a cruel trick to play forcing the queue downstairs and through a series of barriers and mazes.

Circa 12.30 and entering our fifth hour in the queue we entered a huge room with rapidly changing screens showing the available postcards. Now came the conundrum. All of the postcards that had been shortlisted were long gone. Do we fork over £40 for a postcard we don't really like or want simply to justify queuing for 5 hours on a Saturday morning? Luckily as the screens rolled through we spotted a few good ones amongst the rabble and manage to grab a few that we were happy with...

Everyone always asks me what is the meaning of the plug to which I reply the power of the British to queue. Definitely glad this one is off the list although a Damien Hirst in 2010 wouldn't go astray.


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