“De Stijl is 100 years old but feels as relevant today as ever,” says Julian Dawes, vice president of private sales and cohead of Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sales at Sotheby’s New York. Much of what we refer to today as minimalism, or indeed modernism, he explains, is rooted in the De Stijl ideology. “From the beginning, it was about paring down everything that wasn’t essential, so it stands to reason that what is left is universal and timeless.”
To mark the centennial of De Stijl, Sotheby’s is presenting an exhibition of 60 works by artists active in and inspired by the Dutch avant-garde movement, which was founded by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg in Leiden in 1917. Forty-five of the pieces on view are available for purchase. These include important works by Georges Vantongerloo, Walter Drexel, and Richard Pettibone. Among the important loan works are Gerrit Rietveld’s Red and Blue Chair (1918) and Marlow Moss’s Composition Yellow, Blue, Black, Red, and White (1956-57).
De Stijl offers a stripped-down, elemental template that continuously appeals to the most sophisticated practitioners, explains Dawes. He adds that constraints tend to beget creativity, which is why De Stijl continues to resonate so richly with global paradigms of style. “It can be parodied, oversimplified, even overdone,” he says, “but never denied.”
Iconoplastic: 100 Years of De Stijl runs at Sotheby’s S|2 through December 8.