Want to take part in this year's online Secret Postcard Auction? Here's everything you need to know...

What is the RWA Secret Postcard Auction?

The Secret Postcard Auction offers you the chance to purchase unique works of art by leading figures from the art and cultural world. Click here to view the online auction (launching 9am, 15 June 2020)

All artworks are signed on the back, so buyers can either try to guess who the big name artists are or just buy what they like. Bidding on each work starts at just £40, which is a very reasonable price for a unique piece of art, and if it turns out to be by a Turner Prize winner or other leading artist, it might just be the bargain of the century!

This year, as the building is temporarily closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are hosting the auction online only. 


Which artists are participating? 

This year we’ve got another amazing line-up with hundreds of artworks to bid on. Artists include internationally acclaimed figures such as Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Frank Bowling, Gilbert & George, Norman Ackroyd, Brian Catling, Eileen Cooper, Maggi Hambling, Richard Long and David Nash, among many more.   

We’ve also got Aardman’s Nick Park and Peter Lord; Magnum Photographer Martin Parr; Angelina Ballerina illustrator Helen Craig, and talents better known in other fields such as Dame Joan Collins, Jenny Éclair, Harry Hill, Timothy Spall and Sir James Dyson. A full list of artists can be found here.


How big are the artworks?

Unless otherwise stated, all pieces measure c.7" x 5" (19 x 14 cm)... so a generous size for a ‘postcard’! These truly are artworks to frame and treasure. 

Please note: we have done our best to present the most accurate representation of each artwork, but colours may vary from what is shown on screen.


Am I bidding on a postcard of the artwork or the actual artwork?

You are bidding on original artworks by a range of artists, from emerging talents and people famous in other fields to some of the leading artists of our time.


Are the artworks signed?

Yes - we have asked the artists to sign their works on the back, and each postcard is also accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by the RWA director.


When does the online auction begin and end?  

Bidding opens 9am on 15 June and will close between 9pm - 9.30pm on 25 June. 

PLEASE NOTE: To help items achieve their full value and to reduce ‘auction sniping’, our auction platform automatically extends the end time of an item by 3 minutes when it receives a bid during the final 3 minutes. This process repeats until no new bids are received during the final 3 minutes of the item bidding window, or the auction has been extended for a maximum of 30 minutes beyond the original end time.


How do I bid online?

This year the event will be held on an online auction platform which you can access here.

Bids start at £40. Each bid must be at least £5 more than the previous bid. There is no limit on how many bids each postcard can receive or how many each bidder can make, so if someone outbids you, feel free to increase your bid to outbid them! If your bid is the highest by the close of the online event (around 9pm on 25 June) then you win! 

A proxy bid allows you to enter the maximum amount you're willing to spend with the goal of winning the item at the lowest possible price. The system will bid for you, up to your maximum proxy bid amount, as additional bids are entered on the item.

An exact bid is the amount you want the item's current selling price to immediately jump to. Your bid amount will not change as additional bids are entered on the item.

Please note that you will need to create an account before you can place a bid.


Will I be notified If I am outbid? 

Yes, on the email you signed up with. Make sure to keep an eye on your emails!  


If I win, how do I pay? 

You will receive an email confirmation at 9.30pm directing you to pay for your winning lots via Paypal. Please be sure to check the email you signed up with. If you have any issues paying please contact us at info@rwa.org.uk


When do I need to have paid by?

Please note if you have not paid within 72 hours of the auction ending (9pm on 27 June) then we reserve the right to offer the item to the second highest bidder.  We would be very grateful for prompt payment, as we do not release the artists' names until all payment is received.


Can I remove bids whilst the auction is in progress?

If you accidentally enter the wrong amount and need to remove a bid, please contact the auction administrators on info@rwa.org.uk. Please note bids cannot be removed once the auction has ended (see below).


Can I change my mind if I no longer want an artwork and the auction has ended?

No. A bid on this item is considered a contract, and should you win the item you are obliged to purchase it at that price. The name of the artist will only be revealed once payment for this item has been received. Please ensure that you have read pick up/shipping instructions before bidding. 


Will there be a separate auction for the 10 postcards with the most bids, as in previous years? 

This year there won’t be a separate auction for any of the postcards.


When will all of the artists and their works be revealed?

We aim to reveal whose was whose the week after the auction, when all artworks will be viewable on rwa.org.uk, and will include the artists' names, so you can see if you were right in your hunch about whose was whose! We do not publicise the winning bid amounts for each postcard.  Please note that we will not release the names of the artists until payment has been received, so please do pay promptly.


How will I receive my winning postcard/postcards? 

1-3 Secret Postcards, Next Day Special Delivery, insured up to £500: £8.00
Up to 5 Secret Postcards, Next Day Special Delivery, insured up to £1000: £11.00
6+ Postcards: Please contact info@rwa.org.uk to arrange delivery

1-3 Secret Postcards, Worldwide Tracked Service, insured up to £250: £15.00
4+ Postcards: Please contact info@rwa.org.uk to arrange delivery

We're hoping to be able to send all postcards out between Wed 1 July and Fri 3 July.

If you would like greater insurance or need any further assistance regarding dispatch or collection of your purchase, please contact info@rwa.org.uk

Please note that deliveries may be affected by the delays associated with Covid-19.


What if I don’t have regular access to a computer, or if I’m busy on the night the auction ends? Can I leave a proxy bid?

 If you have intermittent access to a computer then you can leave a proxy bid and the computer will bid for you. Please scroll up to read ‘How do I bid online?’ for more information on proxy bidding.


Where do the proceeds go?

All proceeds raised by the sale of the cards will go towards supporting the RWA (Registered Charity 1070163)

"The auction is always a vital contributor to RWA finances. Due to the impact of Covid-19, and our consequent closure, it is doubly vital now. This is an extraordinarily worrying time for the RWA – an independent charity that is hugely reliant on visitor, event and Drawing School income – and for the staff and artists who rely on us. We are incredibly grateful to have received support from the Arts Council, and are of course drawing on as much Government support as we can, but the auction is really essential for us to maintain our outstanding building and continue to deliver life-enhancing creativity to communities across Bristol and beyond.  Please do join us online and have a browse and take part. It has always been such a fun event and there is no reason that needs to change this year. Many artists have been incredibly generous in supporting us, and as always we have a huge array of artworks to suit every taste.” - Alison Bevan, RWA Director 


Does my purchase count as a charitable donation?

Because the artworks are anonymous at the point of purchase, their 'fair market value' is just £40 (the starting bid), regardless of who the artist actually is.  Any amount above this is therefore eligible for Gift Aid, enabling the RWA to reclaim an additional 25% of the donation, so please do sign a Gift Aid form if you're a UK tax payer - it makes a huge difference.  


Can I make a larger donation?

If you would like to make a larger donation to the RWA, please click here or contact our Head of Development, Kate Foster kate.foster@rwa.org.uk   


Can I purchase art from RWA outside of the Secret Postcard Auction?

Subscribe to our newsletter to be notified about future opportunities to buy art. Please also see our 'buy art online' pages.