The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Maxwell Alexandre

Daria Simone Harper
Sep 11, 2020 8:00PM

Maxwell Alexandre

B. 1990, Rio de Janeiro. Lives and works in Rio de Janeiro.

Maxwell Alexandre, Untitled, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and A Gentil Carioca.


In just a few years, Maxwell Alexandre has claimed his spot as one of the most notable young artists emerging from Brazil. Up until 2017, Alexandre was a professional skater, yet an introduction to contemporary art while studying design at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro completely changed his trajectory. He presented his first solo show at the esteemed Rio de Janeiro gallery A Gentil Carioca in 2018, and in 2019, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon mounted his first major solo exhibition outside of Brazil (the show originated at the Rio Art Museum).

Born in Rocinha (Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela), Alexandre draws a great deal of inspiration from his daily experiences in his hometown—from children playing to interactions with the police. Alexandre often paints on unconventional materials, opting for brown paper, iron doors, or windows rather than a traditional canvas. His large-scale paintings call attention to the vibrancy of youth culture, showing stylish young figures posing for mirror selfies, or couples getting their hair done while sharing a cigarette. Alexandre helped found a church with fellow artists called the Church of the Kingdom of Art, or A Noiva (“The Bride”); their faith is based on accessing “the divine” through various artistic processes.

In 2020, Alexandre participated in a residency at the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden in Marrakech, Morocco, as well as a group exhibition at the institution, titled “Have You Seen A Horizon Lately?” He is slated for a solo show at David Zwirner’s London gallery in November 2020.

The Artsy Vanguard 2020

The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.

Daria Simone Harper

Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Maxwell Alexandre, “Se eu fosse vocês olhava pra mim de novo,” 2018, from the series “Pardo é Papel”; Portrait of Maxwell Alexandre; Maxwell Alexandre, “Bilionário escuro,” 2018, from the series “Pardo é Papel;” Maxwell Alexandre, “O mundo é nosso,” 2018, from the series “Pardo é Papel.” All images courtesy of the artist and A Gentil Carioca.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019