Alice Rawsthorn OBE is a British design critic, who writes on design in the international edition of The New York Times. She also writes the "By Design" column for Frieze magazine. A trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery and the Michael Clark Company, the contemporary dance group, she is chair of the board of trustees at the Chisenhale Gallery in London.
Education and early career in journalism
After graduating in art and architectural history from Cambridge University, Rawsthorn secured a place on the graduate trainee journalism scheme of the Thomson Organisation, then became media editor of Campaign magazine. In 1985, she joined the staff of the Financial Times, where she worked as a foreign correspondent in Paris before becoming architecture and design critic in 2000.
Work in the arts
During her career at the Financial Times, Rawsthorn became a member of the Design Council and a trustee of the Design Museum. In 2001, she was appointed director of the Design Museum. During this period, the museum launched the Designer of the Year award, and mounted the Great Design Quest in collaboration with the BBC. She resigned in February 2006 reportedly over differences with the museum's founder, Sir Terence Conran, concerning the future direction of the institution.
Rawsthorn has since been active in the arts on a pro-bono basis. A trustee of Arts Council England from 2007 until 2013, she was previously its lead adviser on the visual arts for four years and chair of the Turning Point review of the contemporary visual arts, which resulted in a record increase in public funding. She has served on many arts juries including the Turner Prize for contemporary art, the Stirling Prize for architecture, the British Council's selection panel for the Venice Architecture Biennale, the PEN History Book Prize, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Buckminster Fuller Challenge the BAFTA film and television Awards and the Museum of the Year prize run by the Art Fund. A former chair of the British Council's Design Advisory Group, she was also a member of the British government's advisory panel on the BBC Charter Review.
Currently, she is a trustee of the Whitechapel Gallery in London and of the Michael Clark Company, one of the world's leading contemporary dance groups, and chairs the board of trustees of the Chisenhale Gallery in London. In 2014, Rawsthorn became a founding member of Writers at Liberty, a group of writers who are committed to supporting the work of the human rights charity Liberty.
Alice Rawsthorn was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to design and the arts.
Other activities and writings
A prominent public speaker on design, Rawsthorn has participated in important international events, including the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland, and was a founding member of the TED 2016 conference and the Forum's Global Agenda Council on Design. Among her awards for her work in design are an honorary senior fellowship from the Royal College of Art and an honorary doctorate from the University of the Arts.
Rawsthorn has contributed essays to several books on design and contemporary culture, including monographs of the work of the designers Hella Jongerius and the Bouroullec brothers and a biography of the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Her most recent book is Hello World: Where Design Meets Life, which traces design's influence on our lives from the adoption of the skull and crossbones as a global symbol of terror by 18th-century pirates, to World Cup footballs and advances in supercomputing. Originally published by Hamish Hamilton in the UK in 2013, Hello World was published in the US by the Overlook Press in 2014 and is to appear in multiple foreign language editions.