We explain what minimalism is and how it is expressed in art, architecture and lifestyle. In addition, its relationship with consumerism.

The term minimalism was originally created to talk about the art of Ad Reinhardt.

What is minimalism?

In general terms, when we speak of minimalism we refer to reducing existence to its essential minimum margins, that is, to eliminate everything considered surplus, superfluous, excessive or luxurious.

It is a term used in many specific senses, either as an artistic trend or as a philosophy of life, whose spirit is expressed in the famous phrase “less is more”, attributed to the German-American architect and industrial designer Mies van der Rohe. (1886-1969).

The term minimalism comes from English minimum (minimum), and in Spanish it would come to be something like “minimism”, that is, the tendency to reduce everything to the minimum. It originated in the United States in the 1960s.as an artistic trend that inherited the reductionism proposed at the time by the painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) and defended by the artists of Soviet Constructivism and Dutch Neo-Plasticism.

As an artistic movement, it was opposed to realist trends and pop-art., and pursued the continuation of the geometric tradition of abstract art. He was named after him by the British philosopher Richard Wollheim in 1965, referring to the paintings of the American conceptual artist Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967).

At the same time, this term has been used since the end of the 20th century in areas unrelated to art, to refer to a lifestyle opposed to consumerism, that is, it seeks to reduce the consumption of objects and services to the essential minimum, thus eliminating the elements that distract us from the important things in life. In this last sense, it has been highly valued by environmental activists and by a certain counterculture of capitalism.

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It can serve you: Contemporary (or modern) art

Characteristics of minimalist art

minimalism features art
Minimalist artworks are not trying to represent something else.

In its general features, the artistic trend of minimalism can be characterized as follows:

  • It was an artistic trend focused on painting and sculpturealthough it also had an impact on music, design and architecture.
  • His works tend to the basic, the simple, the abstract and the use of pure colorsand simple and geometric shapes.
  • His motto was “the object is the object”, and therefore the work did not require decorations, flourishes or anything that would distract the viewer from what is important, from the true core of itself. They also shouldn’t pose as something else, like statues that look like real people, but should be the object itself.
  • In this sense, minimalism I was looking for a more attentive viewer, more involved with the work, susceptible to intellectual stimulation, that is, to ideas. His purpose was to achieve pure, cold, dispassionate, intellectual contemplation.
  • Authorship was also reduced to a minimum in the minimalist work, since in it there was none of the emotionality and subjectivity of the author.
  • The minimalists called their works “proposals”, because in their view the artist offered an experience to the viewer and it was the latter who “did” the work, that is, who completed it and lived it.
  • In addition, the minimalist work made sense in relation to the space around it: where it is located, how the viewer gets to it. Therefore, when no one was around, they were “deactivated” works.
  • It is considered the last properly modern movementthat is, prior to the emergence of the questions and ironies of postmodernity.
  • Among the main artists of minimalism are the Americans Robert Mangold (1937-), Robert Rayman (1930-2019), Robert Morris (1931-2018), Brice Marden (1938-) and Sol Lewitt (1928-2007).
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minimalism in architecture

minimalism architecture
In minimalist architecture there is a predominance of straight lines.

In the architectural field, minimalism gained popularity around the 1980s. It resulted in the construction of spaces stripped of all adornment and ostentationwhich aimed at capturing the fundamental balance, similar to Eastern Zen philosophy.

This means that extreme simplicity and highly functional spaces were the dominant trend at the time, and are still valued in the architectural world today.

The minimalist architectural work was characterized by:

  • Simplicity and functionality first of all.
  • Simple coatings and finisheshonest, that harmonize the real textures of the construction materials.
  • Wide, open spacesin which natural light is valued, with a predominance of straight lines and a feeling of spaciousness.
  • simple decorationswith very little detail, which convey a feeling of cleanliness and order.
  • Neutral and limited material palettesoften reduced to concrete, glass and metal.

Minimalism as a lifestyle

minimalism lifestyle marie kondo
Marie Kondo promotes minimalism as a vital proposal.

Regarding the philosophy of life, minimalism translates into the reduction of possessions to the essential minimum, moving away from luxuries, ostentation and useless accumulations. A minimalist life is one that aspires to be happy with the bare minimumunder the premise that this way they will not be distracted from what is essentially important in life, which is not exactly accumulating things.

The philosophy of life of minimalism It emerged at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st., hand in hand with ecological warnings about the impact of irresponsible industrialization on the environment and as a fashionable aesthetic inspired by certain oriental philosophies. In fact, in Japan minimalism has been embraced as a vital proposition by modern gurus like Fumio Sasaki and Marie Kondo.

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According to its promoters, the virtues of minimalism would be reducing individual spending, waste and waste of resources and energy, and a vital model more focused on transcendent issues, and not on the consumption of superficialities.

consumerism and minimalism

Consumerism comes to be, in terms of life philosophies, everything diametrically opposed to minimalism. It is understood as consumption for the very pleasure of consumingso that deep down it does not give much importance to what is consumed or to the needs that must be satisfied by consuming, but focuses on the very act of accumulating objects and goods, even those of little value and short life.

Consumerism it is a highly destructive philosophy for both individual life and the ecosystem since it generates high amounts of waste and wastes resources and energy, but at the same time generates great profitability for the industries and businesses that produce the goods demanded massively and continuously.

Thus, it is an attitude highly encouraged by commercial advertising, equating it with happiness and fulfillment: the more you consume, the happier you will be.

Continue with: Idealism


  • “Minimalism” in Wikipedia.
  • “Minimalism” in HE HAS!
  • “Minimalism: the joy of living with less” in BBCNews.
  • “Minimalism: the new lifestyle that will change daily life” in Selectra.