Curating ‘Flow’ by Russell Antcliff

Despite the unprecedented lockdown in 2020, Modern Art Oxford’s Flow at the Glass Tank curatorial team are working hard behind-the-scenes through their regular online planning sessions. For those unfamiliar with the project, Modern Art Oxford are working in partnership with Oxford Brookes University to deliver a new exhibition this September exploring ideas and creativity, and featuring works by the people of Oxfordshire.

Overseen by Creative Associate (Participation) Laura Purseglove, the project involves an exciting new curatorial process for Modern Art Oxford. As part of a new professional development scheme, the exhibition is being organised by members of the volunteer team at the gallery, demonstrating the creative collaboration underpinning the project. Russell Antcliff is one of the volunteers taking part and we’ve been speaking to him this week as he reflects on the project’s unique curatorial process.



The practice of organising, selecting, and looking after the objects or works of art in a museum or an art gallery, etc.

In my professional life I have a background in Project Management, and so it is natural for me to view an exhibition as a project where a number of different people collaborate to bring together the end goal of staging an exhibition, and this would include marketing, promotion, volunteers like myself working at the exhibition. When I had thought about curating though, the process of selection was always at the forefront of my mind. Less so was the idea about where each piece would be best placed, and what should be next to them in order to create a narrative for the exhibition and a meaningful dialogue with the pieces around it. Only on rare occasions had technical questions of how to install look after a work of art crossed my mind.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the gallery’s Activating Our Archives project last year and through that learnt about organising photography, how different images together can have a powerful synergy, and also how the captions that accompany works can really add to the story that you are trying to tell. Through sessions like live curation, where we took turns in a group to select an image to place based on what the previous person had selected, I began to understand the nuance and skill in this area of curation.

Through the sessions we have had so far in the Flow project we have heard from various members of the gallery team, for me an eye-opening one of these was hearing from the people responsible at both Modern Art Oxford and The Glass Tank gallery at the University who are responsible for hanging the works and then also ensuring their care while they are there. I guess this aspect of an exhibition had not really crossed my mind too often, the practical considerations of installation in a specific space and how that might impact on how works are displayed. It is perhaps the challenge I am most looking forward to while being involved in this project.  

Modern Art Oxford volunteer Russell Antcliff is a keen amateur photographer with a love for Oxford and its community spirit. You can follow him at @rantcliff81 on Instagram.

Find out how you can become a volunteer at Modern Art Oxford here

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