In Brief

Whose face will appear on the new £20 note, and who will decide?

Beatrix Potter is the bookies' favourite to be the new face of the £20 note, but Alexander McQueen and JMW Turner are also in contention

Mark Carney

After receiving 21,000 nominees, the Bank of England announced today that its public consultation period for finding a replacement for economist Adam Smith on the £20 bank note has now finished.

The Bank has already whittled the number of eligible candidates down to around 600 and will now begin the task of choosing its eight finalists. Governor Mark Carney will then make the final decision on who will appear on the new note.

One of the key criteria for nominations was that the person must have been a visual artist, such as a painter, architect, photographer, designer or filmmaker. They also had to be both non-fictional and dead.

The decision to hold a public consultation was made following the furore in 2013, when the Bank of England unilaterally decided to replace social reformer Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill as the face of the £5 note, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Critics pointed out that the decision meant that the UK currency would no longer feature any portraits of women, other than Queen Elizabeth. A petition to put Jane Austen on the new £10 soon gathered 35,000 signatures and became a political hot potato. It prompted Carney to agree to put the author on the currency from 2017 and to ensure that the selection process would be more open in the future.

The BoE has now published the long list of candidates, which includes household names such as Alfred Hitchcock, Barbara Hepworth, Anthony Minghella, Beatrix Potter, Charles Rennie MacIntosh, Alexander McQueen, Henry Moore, JMW Turner, John Singer Sargent, Lucian Freud, Mervyn Peake and  William Hogarth.

So who are the front-runners? Bookmaker Coral names writer Beatrix Potter as the 7-1 favourite, reports the Evening Standard. Fashion designer Alexander McQueen and artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth are not far behind with odds of 8-1. And Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and artist JMW Turner are also good bets at 9-1.

Artist wanted for £20 note - who should it be?

20 May

The Bank of England is seeking public nominations for an artist who will appear on the £20 note. The banknote, which will enter circulation in the next three to five years, will replace the current currency featuring the economist Adam Smith.

BoE chief Mark Carney said the bank was inviting the public to nominate British artists, craftspeople, designers or filmmakers whom they would like to see on the note, reports Bloomberg. At the Victoria and Albert Museum on Tuesday, Carney said that the bank was "encouraging people to think big, to think beyond the most obvious and the most famous."

He added that: "We all hope this process will promote a broader celebration of the enormous variety, breadth, and contribution of the visual arts to British life."

It is the first time the Bank has asked the public for suggestions for a banknote figurehead, and it seems it is keen to avoid a repeat of the 2013 controversy, when it chose Winston Churchill to succeed 19th century social reformer Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note. The decision meant that no women other than Queen Elizabeth would appear on future notes.

The controversy was heightened further when women lobbying for 19th-century novelist Jane Austen's image to appear on banknotes were harassed online.

One of Governor Carney's first public acts after he took office in July 2013 was to announce that Austen would appear on the £10 note from 2017. He also pledged that the BoE note selection process would be more transparent.

BBC correspondent Mark Savage has suggested that if gender equality is the aim, the bank has set a challenging task, as the visual arts are not known for their equality. Savage says that Barbara Hepworth is the most obvious female candidate.

But according to Savage the spot will more likely go to a male artist such as William Hogarth or JMW Turner.

Professor Lynda Nead, Pevsner chair of history of art at Birkbeck, agrees. She told The Guardian that in her view it was unlikely that another female face would join Austen on the UK's currency. "Visual arts seem to particularly lag behind when it comes to women, compared with other cultural pursuits like writing," she said.

No living artists can be nominated, ruling out female candidates such as Bridget Riley, Vivienne Westwood and Tracey Emin.

Caroline Criado-Perez, the author who ran the campaign to get more women on banknotes in 2013, said she was content that women would be represented on British money by Austen, but hoped banknotes would one day "represent the whole diversity of British society".

Bookmaker Ladbrokes currently has Hepworth at relatively low odds of 12/1, with joint favourites the satirical artist William Hogarth and the film director Richard Attenborough on 4/1. The two are closely followed by JMW Turner at 5/1.

The public can sway the decision by adding their nomination to the BoE's website until 19 July. A decision will be made by a committee of BoE officials and art experts early next year.


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