Spot the artist in annual Secret exhibition

The annual 'Secret' exhibition opens at the Royal College of Art this week. Arifa Akbar previews the show and introduces our fantastic competition

David Bailey rose to fame as a photographer in the 1960s, capturing images of the famous and the infamous. His subjects ranged from the model Jean Shrimpton to the Kray Twins. And this week, 40 years after he helped to sum up the the spirit of an age, his work will go on show at the Royal College of Art as part of the annual art gamble that is the Secret exhibition.

His contribution – not necessarily a photograph – is one of the 20 postcards featured on these two pages, taken from among the 2,300 postcard-sized artworks which will be unveiled to the public on Friday.

The Independent is offering readers the chance to say which of these 20 is by Bailey, and a prize of an Olympus digital SLR camera will go to each of the first five correct entries picked at random (see below for full details of the competition).

Every year at the Royal College of Art, thousands of art lovers have the chance to buy one of these postcards for under £40. It may be something by a student at the college – perhaps one of the big names of tomorrow. Or it may be donated by a professional artist, designer or illustrator, perhaps one of the biggest current stars.

What makes the Secret show so exciting, however, is that the signature on the back is revealed only after the postcard has been bought – making the sale of the cards the country's biggest artistic lucky dip.

This year's sale will include contributions by some of Britain's most eminent artists, such as David Hockney and Peter Blake. There will also be contributions from former Turner Prize winners and nominees, including Damien Hirst – who contributed skull images last year – Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego and Julian Opie. Other contributors include the designers Zandra Rhodes and Manolo Blahnik; Yoko Ono; the film director Mike Leigh; the Stone Roses guitarist John Squire, and the Wallace and Gromit animator Nick Park.

Bailey began his career as a fashion photographer for Vogue in 1960 and his achievements include album covers for the Rolling Stones. He is believed to have provided the inspiration for Antonioni's 1966 film Blow Up, whose protagonist was a London fashion photographer. He once said: "I've always tried to do pictures that don't date. I always go for simplicity."

Wilhelmina Bunn, curator of Secret, said the most dedicated observers may be able to discern artists' distinctive styles among the works if they look carefully enough. "I don't think there are many artists who are trying to cover up their identity. There are masses of clues in the works, and the identity of some of the artists are stamped all over the cards. There is a relationship between the person who created an artwork and the object, and these postcards do reveal that."

But Ms Bunn suggested buyers choose from the heart, rather than the head, because every purchase is a potential investment. "Each and every one of these postcards is the work of an artist, and if they are recent graduates, they could have very established careers in 10 or 20 years' time and you could have a part of their oeuvre," she explained.

All the postcards will be on view at the RCA in London, and on its website, from Friday, and they will go on sale on Saturday 24 November. There will be a raffle for buyers to win a position in the first 50 places in the queue, a move initiated last year to prevent purchasers camping outside the college.

As well as being a fundraiser for the fine art students at the college, the show has a loyal following of supporters who have visited the show since it began in 1994.

Lucky dip of the year

We have five Olympus digital SLR cameras to give away. The E-410 kit, worth around £450,is the latest in the D-SLR range and includes a 14-42mm lens. Compact and lightweight, it also features Live Preview viewing and a 10-megapixel image sensor that helps create more detailed, better-quality shots. For further information visit www.olympus.co.uk or call 0800 072 0070.

For your chance to win one, see the images in the paper and just tell us which postcard you think is by David Bailey. Send your answer, name and contact details to competitions@independent.co.uk stating "Olympus Competition" in the subject box. Alternatively send your answersto: Olympus Competition, PO Box 55705, London E14 3AQ. (Please state your name, address and email address if applicable on the reverse of the envelope). Entries must received by Monday 19 November. Winners will be picked at random from the correct entries and notified by telephone by Friday 23 November.

Terms and conditions

1. Only one entry per email address. 2. No purchase necessary. 3. Standard Independent News & Media terms and conditions apply. See www.independent.co.uk/legal for standard terms and conditions. 4. The editor's decision is final.

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