Stephen Bayley

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Stephen Paul Bayley Hon FRIBA (born 13 October 1951) is a British design critic, cultural critic, journalist, and author.

He has worked as a museum curator. In the 1970s he was a lecturer in the history of art at the University of Kent, but first became prominent in the 1980s as an authority on style and design when Sir Terence Conran chose him to head up the Boilerhouse Project,[1][2] at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the V&A, in London. This was Britain's first permanent exhibition of design and it was host to more than 20 exhibitions in five years including Ford Motor Co, Sony, Issey Miyake, Coca-Cola and Taste. He then became chief executive[2] of the Design Museum in London which grew out of the Boilerhouse Project.

In 2007, Bayley became The Observer's architecture and design correspondent.[3] He writes for several newspapers and is a contributing editor of GQ. He is also a regular columnist in British CAR Magazine where he offers a critique of contemporary motoring design from a philosophical perspective. He has also appeared on television series such as Have I Got News for You and Grumpy Old Men.

Childhood and education[edit]

Bayley was born in Cardiff, Wales and spent his childhood years in Liverpool, England, attending Booker Avenue County Primary School and Quarry Bank High School. He was inspired by Liverpool's architecture and its built environment.

He was later educated at Manchester University and the University of Liverpool School of Architecture.

Other roles[edit]

In 1989 he was made a Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France's top artistic honour, by the French Minister of Culture and in 1995 he was Periodical Publishers Association Columnist of the Year.

He was appointed as the creative director of the exhibition at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich. After a series of disputes he resigned in 1998 citing ministerial interference. On his resignation he said of the dome that "it could turn out to be crap", and accused government minister Peter Mandelson of "running the project like a dictator". Mandelson said that "he had not been a dictator but had been decisive and had got a grip on a project that was suffering from drift". Mandelson also said that Mr Bayley's other remarks did not merit a response.[4] Chief executive of the Dome Project, Jennie Page, gave evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee which included the issue of his resignation.[5]

In July 2008, Bayley, described as a 'design guru', became the first of three non-executive directors to join the management board of Sidhu & Simon Communications, a public relations and sponsorship agency.[6] The American author and journalist Tom Wolfe said of him, "I don’t know anybody with more interesting observations about style, taste and contemporary design".[7]

He was also the 'style director' of Guest Hotels, from 2008.[8][9]

Courting controversy[edit]

Bayley has sometimes stirred up controversy by strong-worded arguments.

In an article in The Times in 2018, he wrote that "without "colonial" interventions there would be no Elgin marbles to discuss. The Acropolis would be dust."[10]

In his Observer column of 22 March 2009, he claimed polemically that: "Botticceli's model for The Birth of Venus was a common Florentine hooker called Simonetta Vespucci, painted nude to titillate his client".[11] He was arguing against the motion that: "Britain has become indifferent to beauty" proposed by Roger Scruton and David Starkey, who held an image of The Birth of Venus next to an image of the British supermodel Kate Moss, in order to demonstrate how "cruddy" British culture is.

Personal life[edit]

He lives in his south-west London house with his wife, Flo, and their two children, Bruno and Coco. By 2008 he had lived there for 25 years and says that the house still isn't finished: "doing up a home is like food and sex: it should never be rushed" and that the sole purpose of the garden is as "a place to sit with a book and a glass of wine".[8]

Selected publications[edit]

  • In Good Shape: Style in Industrial Products 1900 to 1960. Design Council, London, 1979. ISBN 0850720958
  • The Albert Memorial (1981)
  • Harley Earl and The Dream Machine (1983)
  • The Conran Directory of Design (1985)
  • Sex Drink and Fast Cars (1986)
  • Commerce and Culture (1989)
  • Taste (1991)
  • Labour Camp (1998)
  • General Knowledge (2000)
  • Sex: A cultural history (2000)
  • A Dictionary of Idiocy (2003)
  • Life’s a Pitch (2007)
  • Design: Intelligence made visible (2007)
  • Cars (2008)
  • Work: The Building of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (2008)
  • Woman as Design (2009)
  • Liverpool: Shaping the city (2010)
  • La Dolce Vita (2011)
  • Ugly: The Aesthetics Of Everything (2012).
  • Death Drive - there are no accidents (2016).
  • Life’s a Pitch (3rd edition, 2017).
  • Taste - the secret meaning of things (2nd edition, 2017).
  • Signs of Life - why brands matter (2017).


  1. ^ "V&A profile". Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  2. ^ a b "Life's a Pitch website including pictures of the authors". Retrieved 2 August 2008.
  3. ^ "Stephen Bayley's column in The Observer from February 2007". The Guardian. London. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  4. ^ "Mandelson rejects dictator comment – BBC News, 11 January 1998". Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  5. ^ "Jennie Page evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee includes reference to Bayley's resignation". Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  6. ^ "Joins public relations & sponsorship agency". Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ "Stephen Bayley - Taste". Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  8. ^ a b Philby, Charlotte (6 August 2008). "A work in progress: At home with design expert Stephen Bayley, The Independent, 6 August 2008". London. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  9. ^ "Hotel buildings to be arts canvas – BBC News, 1 May 2008". 1 May 2008. Retrieved 7 August 2008.
  10. ^ "The Elgin Marbles would be dust but for British culture – The Times, 20 June 2018". Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Has Britain become indifferent to beauty? National Trust Quality of Life Debate – retrieved 22 March 2009

External links[edit]