Minimal art

The Minimal Art movement emerged in the United States in the mid-1960s. Painters, sculptors, composers, dancers and theatre-makers had had enough of the extreme emotionalism of the previous generation and the way their art wallowed in fears and neuroses. They felt that, by moving away from the painterly and eliminating every kind of fiction or illusion, they could get at the very essence of art and identify what ultimately distinguished the work of art from every other phenomenon in the real world.

Aligning themselves with trends in post-war manufacturing industry, young artists started to use simple non-traditional materials never before seen in an artist’s studio. Metal, Plexiglas, plywood, polyester and plastics enabled them to produce pared-down geometrical forms that said ‘no’ to the spiritual and emotional, to the analysis of visual perceptions, and to aesthetic airs and graces. Instead, they created simple, uncluttered structures that changed the experience of space. Dancers, composers and theatre-makers turned to serialism, structure and minimal variations and repetitions. A new category of art emerged, lying somewhere between the illusionism of painting and sculpture. In 1972 the Gemeentemuseum held Europe’s first ever exhibition of the latest work by this first generation of Minimal Art practitioners.

Starting from the austerity and rigidity of this early Minimalism, artists like Donald Judd, Sol Lewitt, and Carl Andre – to be followed later, in other continents, by Nam June Paik, Frank Stella, Lee Lozano, Imi Knoebel, Günther Tuzina and Jan van der Ploeg – gradually blazed a trail in the direction of a less rule-bound visual idiom in which even colour and painterliness could eventually find a place. The Gemeentemuseum’s collection includes an outstanding group of works by Sol Lewitt and a number of exceptionally fine works by Donald Judd.

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