Curators Maxalot have enabled a range of graphic and digital designers to exhibit their work as a contemporary art form

Based in Barcelona, Maxalot is a cutting-edge gallery space (“an all-media production shop extraordinaire” as their website confidently declares) that aims to showcase the very best in graphic design and exhibit it as a contemporary art form. The gallery invites creatives to participate in projects free from the constraints of commercial work and has focussed, in particular, on the emerging field of digital and new media art.

Formed in 2003 by Max Akkerman and Lotje Sodderland (hence Max&Lot) the company has exhibited a variety of graphic designers including Greyscale, eBoy, tDR and WeWorkForThem, not to mention curating Michael Place’s On/Off show, the inaugural exhibition at Commonwealth studio’s Espeis gallery last year (see previous page). “The general ideology, when moving into Barcelona, was to set up a space where creatives could hang out, brainstorm and do projects,” says Akkerman. “By the time we found our space and did the makeover we realised that the space was actually very suitable for special small shows. And being big on digital design and art myself, I suggested exhibiting some of my all-time heroes.”

Pioneers of presenting graphic and digital design in this way, from the outset Maxlot were keen to disengage these artists from their commercial commitments and, says Akkerman, “take these studios into a gallery setting and have them produce work free of any creative direction. Present the work in a serious way, leaving the visitor to decide if it’s art or design – it’s art of course – how it’s made etc. And, yes, we have stuck to this niche, but we’re planning on taking on some really great illustrators and more contemporary pop artists into our network.”

Maxalot have clearly embraced a cultural change in attitude whereby graphic design feels more welcome in the gallery environment. But why do they think this change came about? “Well, digital tools are being accepted more and more as real creative tools,” says Akkerman. “Soon the mainstream art world will see – better sooner than later I’d say – that these artists aren’t special effects freaks but actual artists expressing feelings on their digital canvas. Working with limited edition art prints and digital soft copies is more trusted and understood now. One day, not long ago, photography had similar problems, now it’s widely accepted as a real art discipline worth investing in and collecting. Soon this will be the case for digital-based artworks.”
Forthcoming projects include some high-end projections onto architecture at The Hague, exhibitions in Amsterdam (WK Interact Vs Delta and a Kozyndan show are in the pipeline) while later this year should see them push their creative network towards the commerical sector with Maxalot: The Agency, followed by potential shows with Kam Tang and Florence Manlik.

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