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Which visual artist should be on the £20 banknote?

20 May 2015

The Bank of England is looking for a visual artist to feature on its next batch of £20 notes. But who should it be? The public has until 19 July to nominate their favourite British artists, sculptors and designers, after which the list will be put in front of the Banknote Character Advisory Committee, with the Bank’s governor, Mark Carney, having the final say.

After a quick straw poll in Apollo’s editorial office, we’ve put together a few suggestions of our own. Who have we missed?

William Hogarth – way out in front with two votes

There are a few obvious choices: Barbara Hepworth, Turner, Eric Gill (well maybe not Gill, he was a pioneer but not always in the right fields). The most obvious for me though is Hogarth. Making fun of serious cultural problems seems like a defining characteristic of the British personality (if such a thing exists). Monty Python, Thomas Rowlandson, Chris Morris etc all might be said to owe something to him. Plus there’s a lovely picture of him with his dog to go on the note. Will Martin 

Money is filthy stuff, and nobody knew this better than William Hogarth. Take The Rake’s Progress. After Tom Rakewell inherits his fortune, he proceeds to fritter it away on all sorts of merry things: brothels, betting, booze. Alas, this leads to disease, debt and death. Put Hogarth on the note and it will offer a succinct reminder of the highs – and the lows – that money can bring. Lara Prendergast

Leonora Carrington

She would have hated the idea, but it would be nice to have a surrealist on a banknote. (And Frida Kahlo is on a banknote in Mexico, where Carrington lived for so many years.) Fatema Ahmed

William Blake

There would be something slightly odd about pinning the great nonconformist to a banknote – but it would add a touch of anarchy and energy to our wallets. Thomas Marks 

Francis Bacon

The works of Francis Bacon know a thing or two about cash: take Three Studies of Lucian Freud from 1969, which fetched a whopping £89.3 million in 2013 and set a record price for the artist. Let’s put this insanely expensive, twisted image of Freud – that other great titan of British painting – on a banknote. Double for your money. Imelda Barnard

Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser

Two of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts were excluded from the group portrait for being women. Is it time to bring them back into the spotlight? Kauffmann was Swiss-born but surely gets a special dispensation. Maggie Gray

[Editor’s note: technically you’re not allowed to nominate living figures, but since art has always challenged the status quo, these names are going on our list regardless…]

Bridget Riley

Whoever is chosen, someone – whether on grounds of gender, politics, relevance, race or hair colour – will object to it. I’d go for abstraction, rather than a portrait – possibly Bridget Riley’s Fall. It would be avant-garde, distinctive and nigh-on impossible to counterfeit. If nothing else, when lazy City editors referred to ‘headaches’ at the Bank of England, you’d know it was no metaphor. Digby Warde-Aldam 

Grayson Perry

Already a national treasure, not to mention Apollo’s Personality of the Year 2013. For added value, why not a double portrait of Perry and his alter-ego Claire?

The Chapman Brothers

In 2007 Jake and Dinos Chapman caused a stir by embellishing visitors’ £20 and £50 notes for free at Frieze Art Fair. This is the Bank of England’s chance to beat contemporary art at its own game.

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