5 Artists Who Deserve to Be on the New British £20

With Adam Smith on the outs, the Bank of England is seeking a visual artist for the new face of the £20 note.

by The Creators Project
May 22 2015, 11:15pm

One of Beatrix Potter's famous bunnies. Via Flickr user Sofi 

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Adam Smith's out; Tuesday morning at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney announced that the UK is seeking nominations for the new face of their £20 banknote. Instead of any old politician or philosopher, however, they've specifically requested the names of prominent British visual artists. 

"The visual arts is broadly defined and covers architects, artists, ceramicists, craftspeople, designers, fashion designers, filmmakers, photographers, printmakers, and sculptors," the Bank of England writes on its website. "These areas form part of our everyday lives, from the buildings around us to the artwork that inspires us, the clothes we wear and the objects we use."

Already, Business Insider UK reports that popular online betting site Ladbrokes has named their most probable contenders, placing 4:1 odds on both 17th-18th century painter and satirist, William Hogarth, and actor, filmmaker, and all-around great voice, Richard Attenborough. But there's no way that the list stops there—with centuries of available British visual arts talent in the running, The Creators Project has selected our five favorites for the future of the £20.

Beatrix Potter

Potter's illustrated children’s books have remained household staples since their publication in the early 20th century. Her most well-known and beloved series centers around the rebellious Peter Rabbit and his devious escapades in the garden of Mr. McGregor. Reproductions of Peter have proliferated cultures throughout the globe for the past hundred years, with movie reproductions of the stories, stuffed animals and statues of Peter and his family, etc.—Beatrix’s rabbit is, in short, an icon of England’s literary heritage.

Alfred Hitchcock

Gjon Mili's 1942 portrait of Alfred Hitchcock, via Flickr user Insomnia Cured Here

The “Master of Suspense” himself, Sir Alfred Hitchcock has contributed countless technical and narrative innovations to the cinematic arts, earning his place in history as the original auteur. From 1923-76 he directed over 50 classics, including Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds, and even received knighthood in 1980. His endlessly quotable ideas about suspense changed not only filmmaking, but storytelling as an art form—plus, his iconic profile would make for a great press on the £20 note.

Francis Bacon

A street art portrait of the late Francis Bacon. Photo via Flickr user thierry ehrmann

Not to be confused with the Elizebethan philosopher, Francis Bacon was a conceptual painter with a reputation for capturing particularly bleak impressions of humanity. At a 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais, Bacon was considered by many to be Britain’s greatest living painter. His Three Studies of Figures at the Base of Crucifixion (1944) was a seminal reaction to the horrors of World War II, and his studies on the work of Picasso, Velasquez, and more, continuing commentary on religion and death, and unique perspective as a gay man in the 20th century would make a lasting—and hopefully horrific—impression on the new banknote.

Barbara Hepworth

A sculpture at the Barbara Hepworth Museum. Photo by Flickr user Herry Lawford

Hepworth was and is considered one of the pioneers of modernist sculpture. Retreating to St. Ives during World War II and remaining there until her death, Hepworth built herself a local prestige within the Cornish art scene, as well as an international presence with her elegant stone, wood, and bronze works. Additionally, Hepworth served as a prominent leader of the UK’s artistic community, fostering cross-medium collaborations and helming what would come to be known as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in Cornwall.

Alexander McQueen

From Alexander McQueen's Spring/Summer 1998 show. Via Flickr user Victor Soto

The late Savage Beauty icon is best remembered for his outrageous and theatrical couture constructions. From elaborate costumes on the catwalk to popularizing the skull motif on scarves, McQueen managed to constantly shock fashion out of its cushy world and into the realm of the fantastic. He was one of the youngest designers ever to win the British Designer of the Year award and dappled in designing everything from sneakers to color palettes for makeup. Seeing as the Bank of England is switching over to specialized polymer banknotes, the ever-experimental McQueen would undoubtedly make a fitting face for the new material.

Who do you think should be on the new British £20? Click here to cast your vote with the Bank of England, and post your suggestions in the comments below.


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Alexander McQueen
Alfred Hitchcock
francis bacon
visual arts
Mark Carney
Bank of England
richard attenborough
Barbara Hepworth
Beatrix Potter
New British £20
William Hogarth