Minimalist nail art is basically the equivalent of when you go to a contemporary art museum and walk into a white-walled room totally empty save for black lines on the floor and ask yourself in all seriousness if this is part of the exhibit or if you’ve stumbled into an off-limits maintenance closet.
That’s the beauty of it—minimalism creates a blank space that leaves room for interpretation, so you aren’t confined to being the person you were yesterday, the one who very much wanted smiley faces and rhinestones on her fingers but now feels like she’s made a huge mistake she’s stuck with until the gels start to peel off.
While some nail art loudly celebrates the joy of excess, these 45 museum-worthy examples of minimalism whisper. They’re subtle. They go with everything. They’re enigmatic, like, “Wait, is this minimalist nail art or a broom closet?” Well, not quite, but you get what I’m saying.
A version of this article was originally published in June 2016.