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Feb 18, 2020

Maldini & Clei: Is Minimalist Design Still Alive?

Is minimalist design still alive? Clei answers this important design question and takes a look at an art movement which has turned into an iconic style.

Minimalism thorough art history, architecture, interior design and lifestyle.

Everybody knows the broad meaning of minimalist style when related to interior design, but how many of us would be able to identify minimalism within contemporary art or architecture history, or to provide its exact definition?

Nowadays, ‘minimal’ has become an overused expression both in the interior design field and in everyday language. In fact, the term is also widely used to describe a lifestyle based on a simpler life, free from unnecessary material possessions.

Leaving aside such clichés, the minimalist style comes directly from an art movement that came to life in a specific historical moment.

The origin of minimalism

Minimalism as an art movement began in the early 1960s in New York, thanks to a number of artists (in both visual and plastic arts) using elements and materials stripped down to the essential in their works.

The British philosopher Richard Wollheim coined the term minimal art in an essay published in 1965 in the New York magazine “Art Magazine”, to define the artistic trend aiming towards an absolute reduction, or, as written by Francesco Poli in “Contemporary Art”, a “lack of expressiveness, impersonality and emotional detachment, emphasis on the work’s materiality and physicality, reduction to the elementary structures”.

Geometric shapes (mainly squares and circles), clearly contoured figures, modular and serial structures, monochromy (especially black and white) are the defining traits of this new movement.

The form and the poetry of minimalism also flourished in other creative disciplines, from music to literature, from dance to fashion, from design to architecture, and in all those other fields where elements could be stripped to the bare minimum.

Influence on architecture and design

Since its beginning, minimalist philosophy has had a great impact on architecture and interior design. Indeed, modernist design had already paved the way for concepts such as:

  • Attention to proportions,
  • rejection of “ornaments”, namely all the decorative elements having no practical purpose,
  • focus on elementary lines and geometrical shapes,
  • preference for natural light over artificial light,
  • preference for plain and neutral colors, in particular black and white,
  • multifunctional spaces,
  • attention to materials, regarded as structural rather than decorative elements, inspired by shape and colors of the building elements.

The artist Donald Judd, leading exponent of the American minimalist design movement, declared its aesthetic approach to design in his own loft. The project is characterized by the reduction to the bare minimum both in the quantity of elements and in their shape, extremely essential.

In the loft we can find its artworks,  as well as those of other artists such as Carl Andre, Marcel Duchamp, Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg, Ad Reinhardt and Frank Stella.

Find the latest from Clei available through their local agents Maldini.

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