What is Minimalism: Definition and History


Minimalism is a trend that, to summarise its essence, seeks to reduce to the essential and eliminate what is not strictly necessary. This current is applied in areas such as plastic arts, interior decoration, design, music and architecture. If it had to be said in just one sentence, it would be “less is more”.


The origin of minimalism dates back to the 1950s and early 1960s in New York, when it appeared as a counterpoint to the expressionism movement. Artists at that time believed that art had become too academic and meaningless. They began to question the limits and rules of the different artistic currents and favoured the predominance of the cold over the dramatic or expressive. The pioneers of minimalism wanted to do away with the traditional and remove the dividing barriers between arts such as sculpture and painting.


The word “minimal” itself was used for the first time in 1965 by the philosopher Richard Wollheim, referring mainly to works by the artist Ad Reinhardt.

Over time, already in the 70s, minimalism began to establish itself as a trend in America and Europe thanks to art dealers, renowned publications, art specialists and various sponsors who were giving their support.

Currently, minimalism has transcended the barriers of the arts and is lived as a lifestyle that seeks to reduce disorder.


Minimalism in art

The essence of minimalist art is abstraction, and its main characteristics are the following:

  • Use as few figures as possible
  • Absence of obvious meaning
  • Variety of geometric shapes
  • Monochrome
  • Repetitive patterns
  • Sharp edges
  • Use of atypical materials.


All these characteristics aim to seek the maximum possible simplicity in the work and thus eliminate symbolism to only focus on purely art issues such as colour, scale or volume in the case of a sculpture.
Minimalist artists explain that their works are brought to life by the public, without the viewers minimalist art would be totally meaningless. This is how minimalist works also seek to influence those who observe them and the environment that surrounds them.

Some outstanding artists of minimalism are the sculptors Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Robert Morris, or painters such as Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman. When it comes to architecture, we can mention John Pawson, Rudi Riccioti, Tadao Ando, ​​Hiroshi Naito and Souto de Moura as representatives of minimalism.

The message of minimalism today has spread beyond the limits of art, and many have adopted it as a much healthier and more satisfying lifestyle than consumerism. Once again, art has contributed to bringing order and peace to a chaotic world.

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