Back to basics: Demisch Danant remembers the rise of French minimalism

Back to basics: Demisch Danant remembers the rise of French minimalism

Simplistic form, muted color palette, scarce in detail. Let’s face it: minimalism is about as ubiquitous as that white T-shirt in your closet. Though the sleek style is the design du jour, it wasn’t always a luxury, but a necessity.

‘The reason behind this wasn’t aesthetically-driven, it was resistance,’ explained Suzanne Demisch, one half of the New York-based gallery Demisch Danant. In the new exhibition ‘The Way of the Essential’, Demisch and co-founder Stephane Danant explore the rise of French minimalism in the 1950s and 60s. In doing so, they recapture the beauty and uniqueness minimalism has to offer.

To put it in context, the Second World War left France at rock bottom. Paris was attacked, and hospitals and airports were destroyed. All the while, people were moving into apartments, creating a need for simple, affordable and modular design. ‘They couldn’t use their 18th century furniture,’ Demisch says.

'Modular Ottoman', by Joseph-André Motte, 1963

But where there’s reconstruction there’s innovation, as several French designers, with Jacques Dumond leading the pack, showed the payoff of paring back.

‘[We’re] pointing out the different perspectives on the same goal of French modernity and minimalism, and tracing the influence from someone like Dumond,’ said Demisch.

For a comprehensive look at the era, the 50-piece exhibit is divided into three sections. Walk into the Greenwich Village gallery and you’ll find minimalist designs with an architectural flare, like Antoine Philippon and Jacqueline Lecoq’s laminate coiffeuse and a glass desk by Janine Abraham and Dirk Jan Rol.

There’s a heavy emphasis on the materials used, as evidenced by Joseph-André Motte’s rattan tripod chair, and ash and mahogany daybed, which fill the second space. And finally, a rendering of a typical French apartment reimagined in Dumond’s pieces. As a glass coffee table unexpectedly sits next to a plaid sofa, minimalism still has the potential to surprise.