ART IN MOTION: Talk with Stephen Bayley: Sex Drive
/ ART IN MOTION: Talk with Stephen Bayley: Sex Drive
ART IN MOTION: Knowledge and Design
Friday 26 May 2017
TALK: Sex Drive – with author, critic & columnist Stephen Bayley, £10 in advance Booking
Car designers aim to stimulate desire, often they succeed. The erotic symbolism in cars is both explicit and implicit: the female form is an obvious inspiration but so too is the masculine.
Great artists and writers of the twentieth century have recognised this. The Futurist Marinetti saw the car crash as an orgasmic experience. The poet EE Cummings thought driving a new car was the equivalent of deflowering a virgin and the Dadaist Francis Picabia labelled cross-sections of engines and presented them as erotic diagrams.
Through power, freedom, status and form cars are devices of celebration and display, and their designers aim to stimulate desire. When Luca di Montezemolo, long-time Chairman and CEO of Ferrari met Stephen Bayley, he told him that Ferraris were all about ‘il massimo edonismo’. And that is the subject of tonight’s talk: maximum hedonism.
Whatever the case, the relationship between cars and sex is an unavoidable one. From the young man buying his first hot hatchback, to the choices of the ardent car collector, automobiles are a brazen and also subtle declaration of identity. From quality, to colour, to materials, to fixtures; from shapes, to size, to speed, price and rarity. All these elements play their role to make cars potent symbols through history. Infact, in every aspect they touch upon the fundamentals of human motivation, with sex being the most fundamental of them all.
Stephen Bayley was once described as the “second most intelligent man in Britain”, this is both debatable and possibly untrue, but he was certainly the person for whom the term “design guru” was coined, a title he accepted with what he likes to think of as self-deprecating irony.
He was educated formally in the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, informally on the autoroutes, autostrade, cafes, bars and museums of Europe. He taught at the University of Kent before being plucked from the tedium of provincial academe to create The Boilerhouse Project in the V&A, an exhibition space devoted to design which became London’s most successful gallery of the eighties.
Then, with Sir Terence Conran, he created London’s influential Design Museum. He was briefly and hilariously Creative Director of The Millennium Dome before a spectacular falling-out with Peter Mandelson which he wrote about in his book, Labour Camp (1998). Over the past forty years his writing has changed the popular perception of “design”. His books include In Good Shape (1979), The Albert Memorial (1981), Harley Earl and The Dream Machine (1983), Sex Drink and Fast Cars (1986), Commerce and Culture (1989), Taste (1991), Sex – a cultural history (2000), A Dictionary of Idiocy (2003), Life’s a Pitch (2007), Design : intelligence made visible (2007), Cars (2008), Woman as Design (2009), La Dolce Vita (2011), Ugly – the Aesthetics of Everything (2012) and Death Drive (2016).
He is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres, an Honorary Fellow of The RIBA, a Trustee of The Royal Fine Arts Commission Trust and a Fellow of The University of Wales.