Antonia Marsh On What It Means To Be A Curator

Antonia Marsh is a curator based in London. Founder of the young collective and residency programme Girls Only, she creates an exciting platform for emerging artists. This year she will travel to Mumbai with Girls Only and a venture which sits well alongside Collectionair’s manifesto of locating new and exciting artists and curators in order to give them a visible platform and audible voice.

I caught up with Antonia following on from her most recent show Pillow Talk, which features the work of 25 young international photographers. The show, commendably her 15th, is on at the Palm Tree Gallery on Portobello Road in London until February 25th 2016.

What does the word curation mean to you? / What is a curator’s role to you?

I think of curating as connection-making. Between artist, gallery, audience, collector. And filling a space with these connections too, between artists or works, even ideas.

Can you tell me about your latest show and any upcoming shows?

I have a show called Pillow Talk that is up in London, it’s an exhibition exploring the bed as a personal space made public through the work of 25 young international photographers. Whether impressions made by figures as if portraits suggested by the absence of their subjects, messy still lives accidentally created by tousled sheets, intimate studies of friends and lovers, candid snapshots of sexual activity, or the documentation of seedy hotel rooms; these images remain mysteriously voyeuristic in their representation of a space so irrevocably private and sacred.

I am also about to travel to Mumbai in India to curate an exhibition with an art collective and residency program I have run in London, Copenhagen and New York called Girls Only, aimed at creating opportunities for female artists in order to attempt to level the playing field in the art world. Some of the work we show and projects we collaborate with we’ll bring back to London to show at Cob Gallery in the spring.

Do you look up to any particular curators or memorable shows you can think of?

There wasn’t one show in particular that comes to mind, but I remember being fascinated if I got to see an exhibition travel – I was lucky enough to see the Gabriel Orozco show from a few years back at Tate as well as at the Pompidou, and I became geekily obsessed with the differences in presentation, thesis, what was and wasn’t included, etc. That kind of thing used to really get me off, haha.

How did you become a curator?

I did it the long and academic way – I studied art history for my BA at Bristol Uni and then curatorial practice for my MA at California College of the arts and I interned in galleries ever summer since I was 16… and I worked in a commercial space in East London for a year between the two degrees. After I left California I went to NYC and started Girls Only out there and have been curating independently ever since. I think Pillow Talk was my 15th show or something crazy.

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Laura Coulson, Austin Texas, 2012
Ada Hamza, Golden Curtain, 2011
Marcel Castenmiller, Ali, 2014
Jono White, Alice in NYC, 2016.

Do you think there are some exciting young curators in London?

It’s hard to tell, they’re in there somewhere but there’s a lot to come out of the woodwork. NYC has a lot more going on in the younger generation because space is much easier to come by, and the art world out there is much more accepting of alternative venues, but hopefully this will change. I’m starting to work on a prize program for young curators in London so fingers crossed this can be of some help!

Collectionair is about promoting curator’s globally, not just focusing on the West. What do you think London’s curation scene says about the London art scene?

London is very spread out, it can be hard to get to things, or know what’s going on, and pockets of creativity rarely overlap.

If referencing a particular show – can you tell me what attracted you to the art of a particular artist?

I am obsessed with the work of these 25 young photographers. There’s so much happening in photography today, it was hard for me to keep the numbers down, even though this seems like a lot anyway… There’s an honesty in their work which you don’t find often, or at least I don’t think has been around for a while. Fashion photography has been so fake and over-edited in the last few years, it’s nice to see some artists are figuring out a way to push back against that and remind us of the beauty in the grime of everyday life.

Jessica Draper

Jessica Draper is a London based curator, with an MA from the Courtauld in Documenting Fashion and Film. She currently specialises in contemporary British art.