Hirst still draws the punters for an art sale in a good cause

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The Independent Culture

By Andrew Johnson

He may not last the test of time, but Damien Hirst's work remains enough of a draw for otherwise sensible people to spend a night on the pavement in the hope of snapping up one of his works for a bargain price.

The annual secret postcard sale at the Royal College of Art, where people without the spending power of a Russian oligarch or American industrialist can pick up a potential masterpiece for £40, raised around £90,000 yesterday.

More than 2,000 postcard-sized works were on sale, among them contributions by Hirst, Tracey Emin, Paula Rego and Yoko Ono, as well as RCA students and graduates. Hirst contributed six works, the others three each.

The catch is that buyers are not told who created which work until they have bought it. A lottery decides who has first refusal, and punters make a list of their top choices according to which works they like.

However, canny art lovers, like John and Eunju MacMahon, were able to spot the distinctive work of their favourite artists. Helped by the fact they came first in the lottery, they walked away with three Hirsts, an Emin and a Rego.

"I camped outside," said Mr MacMahon, 35, an IT manager from east London. "I had about 120 cards on my list, but I knew Hirst had done a few so I was looking for them."

Mr MacMahon and his wife have been to the sale for the past two years, so are old hands. Mrs MacMahon was therefore able to recognise an Emin and a Rego. "It's not a trophy hunting exercise," Mr MacMahon said. "We'll put them up on the walls."

All money raised from the sale goes to the RCA's Fine Art Student Award Fund, which helps support emerging artists with grants and bursaries during their time at the college. RCA Secret has raised more than £1m in its 14-year history. The RCA is hoping to raise £92,000 from this year's sale.

Wilhelmina Bunn, curator of RCA Secret said: "Once again we are thrilled by the public's enthusiasm and support for RCA Secret, despite queuing in the cold. We are set to make about £90,000, which will go towards helping young art students at a formative stage in their careers."

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