Paper mates: Max Fraser taps creative luminaries for a charity auction with a twist

orange background with green design and lettering
Design journalist Max Fraser curates the 'Joy of Living' art auction, in aid of Maggie's charity
(Image credit: TBC)

Maggie’s charity is no stranger to partnering with prominent design figures. Thomas Heatherwick, Wilkinson Eyre and OMA are among some of the names who have shaped its Cancer Caring Centres across the UK. These peaceful environments, and the artworks inside them, have become central pillars of the charity, which offers free practical, emotional and social support.

Long-time collaborator, and design commentator Max Fraser, shares this ethos. ‘I’m very much of the belief that design can improve our world, and our emotional wellbeing,’ he says. Having collaborated with the charity since he curated the ‘Joy of Living’ art auction in 2011, he sees himself as ‘a sort of unofficial ambassador’. A new edition of the auction – in association with paper powerhouse GF Smith – is set to take this ambassadorship to new fundraising heights.

The second edition will be paired with a physical exhibition at London’s 1 Poultry, for which Fraser delved into his (not so little) black book of design world contacts. He called on renowned architects, designers and artists, along with young practitioners whose work he admired, and asked them to create a unique, auctionable object, from nothing but three sheets of GF Smith’s ‘Colorplan’ paper range.

Red orange and pink background, the words TOGETHER across the piece

(Image credit: TBC)

The response was overwhelming – not least for the porter in Fraser’s apartment building, who was on the receiving end of all the oddly shaped, near-weightless packages.

A total of 90 designers jumped at the idea back in 2011, and this year’s auction is set to far exceed that, with 150 contributors confirmed, including Jasper Morrison, Barber & Osgerby, John Pawson, Fredrikson Stallard, Bethan Laura Wood, and Tom Dixon. ‘Between then and now, I know a lot more designers personally – and to be honest, I’ve made the most of those relationships,’ Fraser explains.

It was essential for both Fraser and Maggie’s that the auction be uplifting, an idea he instilled in each of the collaborators. The works – in all their colourful, life-affirming glory – reflect this. Sometimes political, sometimes purely pretty, each piece is presented anonymously. Bidders won’t know whose work they’re buying (a graduate, or a Rolf Sachs) until after they’ve purchased it. ‘Some people said I was an idiot for keeping it anonymous,’ Fraser adds. ‘They said, “You’ll get a lot more money for certain names.” I hate all that elitist stuff. I just think people should buy what they love.’

An atmosphere of warmth, reflection and maturity permeate the works, and the project as a whole, reflecting the deeply personal reason Fraser feels such close ties to Maggie’s. ‘My mum died of cancer so I was very keen to do something to support a cancer charity,’ he explains. ‘The alignment with Maggie’s is perfect because of the importance it places on spatial design as a key aspect in the treatment and emotional curing process. I wish my mother had benefited from a service like that.’

Two images, Left- Red blue and white coloured, Right- Red, Blue, white target.

(Image credit: TBC)

red and cream repetitive design

(Image credit: TBC)

Two images- Left orange background with black writing, Right- colourful design

(Image credit: TBC)

Blue, pink and green paper design

(Image credit: TBC)

Two images, Left- two shades of green curved design on plain background. Right- Criss-cross pattern, shades of green with orange lines

(Image credit: TBC)

Criss-cross thread design in pink and green on a blue background made out of paper

(Image credit: TBC)

Artwork showing a colourful deckchair

(Image credit: TBC)

Artwork showing colourful paper 3D designs

(Image credit: TBC)

two images- Left- Light blues and lilacs in a face design, Right- Patterned square design in purples, blues, cream and black

(Image credit: TBC)

Two images, Left- yellow background with black writing- "What would Anthony do?". Right- Yellow background with circular design of coloured paper darts

(Image credit: TBC)

Two images- Left- striped red and yellow design, Right- cream and red box design

(Image credit: TBc)

Artwork showing a stone block with a video cassette inserted in the top

(Image credit: TBC)


All artworks will be available to bid for online until 17 September, 6pm BST. For more information, visit the Maggie’s website


1 Poultry
London EC2R 8EJ


Elly Parsons is the Digital Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees and its social platforms. She has been with the brand since 2015 in various roles, spending time as digital writer – specialising in art, technology and contemporary culture – and as deputy digital editor. She was shortlisted for a PPA Award in 2017, has written extensively for many publications, and has contributed to three books. She is a guest lecturer in digital journalism at Goldsmiths University, London, where she also holds a masters degree in creative writing. Now, her main areas of expertise include content strategy, audience engagement, and social media.