Es Devlin (British, born 1971), Art Director/Set Designer

Es Devlin (British, born 1971), Art Director/Set Designer

Esmeralda “Es’ ‘ Devlin is an artist and set designer, famous for the creation of unique large size sculptures and environments that are meshed with films, theatres, music, and opera. She also tends to experiments in order to create innovation for a variety of genres with the help of new media art and technology. 

Es Devlin was born in 1971 at Kingston upon Thames, London. She was a student of English literature at Bristol University, Devlin also studied a foundation course of fine arts at St. Martin’s. She married Jack Galloway, the theatrical costume designer and has two children. 

Devlin was very interested in theatre designing from her childhood. While answering a question in an interview she said that ” at the age of twelve, I went to English National opera with my family during 1980s and 90s to watch the ENO’S “powerhouse years” and the visual world was beyond everything I have ever seen.” so she specialized in theatre and started working at “Le cirque invisible” a circus company, owned by Victoria Chaplin and her husband Jean Baptiste Thierry, while she was a student and she prepared props for them.

Es Devlin – Set design for Gounod’s Faust, Dresden SemperOper, 2010

She started her practice in narrative theatre and experimental opera after working a while for London’s bush theatre. She received a prize for stage designing in 1995, “Linbury prize for stage design”. After that, Es Devlin worked for National Theater in 1998 and designed the set for a revival of Harold’s Pinter’s Betrayal at the invitation of “Trevor Nunn”. 

After the national theatre, Devlin expanded her practice and took over bigger venues like the Royal Opera House and different regions like the O2 Arena and Wembley Stadium. She also worked with many A-list celebrities like Kanye West, Lady Gaga, U2, The Weeknd and the Pet Shop Boys and created many dream-like and beautifully done installations, stage designs, and light shows. All these works lead her toward fame and appreciation as her way of presenting her way permits her to explore her ideas in most unique styles.  But her fame was reached to other hypes after designing set for Kanye West’s 2005.

Devlin’s set for U2’s Innocence+Experience tour featured a walkway flanked by video screens, band members sometimes emerged to step through moving images. Courtesy Es Devlin

Es Devlin art direction and sets are famous for her diverse work style, she said “I haven’t developed a kind of ‘Es Devlin style’ of work on which hangs my identity,”  and added, “The good thing about 20 years of making very different types of work is that the identity is to be found in the process and the collaboration, the strains of continuity, and thought found in everything”.  Mirror Maze in Peckham, London, in 2016 and  Room 2022 at Miami Art Basel, in 2017 both provide insights of labyrinthine geometries and tales. 


Enter The Mirror Maze

Creative Director: Es Devlin

Created by: i-D, MPC Creative, Luke Halls, Nick Wood

Music and Sound Design: Christopher Shutt and Ben & Max Ringham Hands: Machiko Weston Es Devlin Studio: Max Klaentschi, Machiko Weston

Production Company: MPC Creative

In 2016, Andrew O’Hagan wrote in the New Yorker ” Each of her designs is an attack on the notion that a set is merely scenery, He added that ” Devlin is in demand because she can enter in the psychic ether of every product and make it shine with significance”.

Devlin received many awards and medals in her career like she received 3 Olivier Awards, a fellowship of UAL and she also received London Design Medal. In 2015 she was titled as RSA Royal Designer and she made an OBE for the industry. In September 2018 Devlin’s 5th shining red “the lion roared” artificial intelligence generated collective poetry was presented to crowds during the London Design Festival, at London’s Trafalgar square.

Super Star Set Designer, Es Devlin: In 20 minutes

University of the Arts London

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