Maximalism, as one might guess, is an aesthetic that heavily opposes minimalism. Where minimalism says “Less is more”, maximalism responds with “No, actually, more is more.” Maximalism is a form of expression that relies on excess. Although the word maximalist has only started gaining prominence in the last few decades, the concept has been around for a long time.
Maximalism can be traced all the way back to the 16th century, where it could be seen in cabinets of curiosities. These cabinets of curiosities were personal collections of a variety of items ranging from preserved plants and animals to exotic treasures. The image to the right (Ferrante Imperato, 1599) is one of the earliest recorded examples of maximalism and shows a room the walls and ceilings covered with preserved animals. This was a show of wealth and a way for people to entertain guests.
By the mid-1800’s, maximalism became much more accessible. As mass production ramped up and it became easier to acquire goods, maximalism trickled down from the upper class to the upper middle class which was looking for a way to display their disposable income. This Victorian version of maximalism started with several framed paintings covering a wall or entire room.
Since the mid 2010’s, maximalism has seen somewhat of a revival. After the recession in the US in the late 2000’s, the popular style shifted towards minimalism. This was a way of saying that less doesn’t actually have to be less. Since the recession, maximalism sprung up as a cultural reaction to minimalism, leading people to spend more money on a variety of interesting items to display within their homes. This led to the resurgence of maximalism and people creating these collections on display in their homes.
Although mainly seen as a decorative aesthetic, maximalism also can be seen in other mediums, such as fashion and art. Maximalist fashion has an extravagant and over the top approach and is heavily dependent on contrast in colors, patterns, shapes, and materials. Major fashion brands such as Gucci have been known to embrace maximalism in their clothing design which can be seen in their signature red and green colors and patterned fabrics. The maximalist art movement is an often overlooked aesthetic in art that came as a direct reaction to minimalism. It often features bright colors and several points of focus. Similarly to maximalist fashion, the art focuses on distinct colors, patterns, and shapes that exist together to create some sort of form.
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Sotheby’s Institute of Art. “Cabinets of Curiosities and the Origin of Collecting.” Sotheby’s Institute of Art, https://www.sothebysinstitute.com/news-and-events/news/cabinets-of-curiosities-and-the-origin-of-collecting.
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