British bulldog with crown

The question that's vexing a nation: who should be on the new £20 note?

3 Jul 2015

2 min read

The Bank of England has announced plans to launch a new £20 banknote to celebrate British achievements in the visual arts and has called on the public for nominations. Suggestions may include painters, designers, architects, filmmakers or photographers who are not ’unduly divisive’ and, ‘deceased’.

So which dead, non-divisive artist should it be? After a quick straw poll in the studio, we’ve come up with a few ideas of our own. Turner doesn’t even get a look in.

Alan Fletcher

'He of amazing ideas and design. Not the dude who plays Carl Kennedy in Neighbours' - Lisa.

A worthy nomination. Alan Fletcher taught the British to look and look again. One of the giants of 20th-century design, he brightened up the drab post-war British landscape with his wonderfully inventive book designs, posters and visual identities for brands and public companies. Look no further than his Pirelli slippers bus advert for evidence.

Pirelli slippers bus advert by Alan Fletcher

Francis Bacon

'He was on a roll' - Richard

Having originally nominated Greyson Perry ('he looks like the queen') Richard finally opted for the guideline-friendly, dead, Bacon. Once described by Margaret Thatcher as ‘that man who paints those dreadful pictures’, Bacon had a reputation for capturing the bleakest side of humanity with paintings on the recurring themes of religion, death and war. One of the most enigmatic painters of the 20th century and the artist behind the most valuable artwork ever at auction, Bacon described money as ‘a great servant but a bad master’. An excellent nomination.

Francis Bacon triptych

Lucienne Day

'I’ve always had a design crush for Lucienne Day' - Jacqui

Our first and only woman nomination, Lucienne is a superb candidate. With a design career spanning 60 years, she pioneered the revival of design and manufacture after WW2. Although she loved modern painting she chose to be a textile designer as: ‘I wanted the work I was doing to be seen by people and be used by people. They had been starved of interesting things for their homes.’ Eventually achieving global recognition, she was commissioned to apply her vivid designs to everything from textiles and carpets to tea towels and ceramics. Her ideas are still completely relevant to modern interior design. Go, Lucienne!

Lucienne Day textile design

John Gilroy

'That might just be because I'm very fond of the black stuff' - Dave

The designer behind a multitude of iconic Guinness adverts surely deserves to have his mugshot on a British note? From 1929 to the late 1960s he designed thousands of posters for the booze giant's ad campaigns and has been described as a genius for the unique way he managed to create an empathy between the public and his designs. Gilroy was undoubtedly good for Guinness. Could he be good for banknotes too?

Keep Smiling - Guinness is good for you advertising creative

Alexander McQueen

'Who doesn’t want to spend designer bills?” - Dave

Spookily enough, the printing of the note in 2020 will mark ten years since the fashion designer's death. Surely that’s a good enough reason for him to win? Responsible for popularising a plethora of bum-crack-revealing innovations he had a vision all of his own. Who else would send clowns in skull masks and models dragging gold skeletons down the catwalk? His vision may have been controversial, but he made the fashion world more exciting. He also made a generation of women swap polka dots on their scarves for tiny skulls.

Alexander McQueen skull scarf

Abram Games

'He’s already been on a stamp' - Catherine

The graphic designer behind some of the most iconic posters of the 20th Century, Abram Games was often told that his early work was rubbish. In fact, he was just well ahead of his time. Believing passionately that the simplest designs created the biggest impact, he designed hundreds of recruitment posters and images during WW2 with slogans like ‘Use Spades, Not Ships’ using bold graphics. A portrait designed in his style would look very cool on a banknote.

Use spades, not ships - grow your own food campaign creative by Abram Games

Jimmy Cauty

'Ex-KLF. Likes a good jumper and ski visor combo. Already has experience of stuff with her maj on it and is the illustrator of Athena’s best selling Lord of the Rings poster' - Paul

(It can't be someone who is still alive)

'Bugger … John Bellany then' - Paul

John Bellany

We can only hope that the men who famously burned £1 million in the name of art will posthumously feature on a banknote one day. In the meantime, John Bellany 'fits the bill' perfectly. A hugely prolific Scottish artist, his paintings enabled him to overcome his alcoholism and survive several near-death episodes. Famous for painting a self-portrait on every birthday he also featured in almost every work he created. Wouldn’t he have loved to be on a banknote too?

John Bellany painting

Got any better ideas? Make your nomination via the Bank of England website before the 19th July.

#visualcommunications #competition #studiopoll #design #visualarts

Written by

Catherine Watson, Digital Marketer at 999 Design

Catherine Watson

Digital Marketer