A figure from the “visual arts” is to compliment the Queen on the new £20 note and will be chosen with the assistance of the public in 2016.
Stung by recent criticism of sexism after failing to put a woman on the new £5 note, the Bank of England is seeking to deflect responsibility for the choice by putting the decision in the hands of the public.
The list of careers considered for candidates, who must have already died, is large. According to the BBC it could include “artists, sculptors, print makers, designers, craftspeople, ceramicists, architects, fashion designers, photographers and filmmakers”.
Considering “the visual arts are not notorious for gender equality”, the likely outcome may not go towards addressing what some have called the “gender gap on banknotes”.
Whoever is selected would have to be noteworthy enough to stand comfortably among Britons who have graced banknotes since the practice was introduced in the 1970’s, such as Sir Issac Newton, the Duke of Wellington, and now Sir Winston Churchill, who will take his place on the new fivers next year.
The BBC’s ‘100 Greatest Britons’ poll, conducted in 2002 gives a good idea of which historical and contemporary figures British people hold in the highest regard.
“Visual artists” are in short supply in the list, with engineer and visionary businessman Isambard Kingdom Brunel at number two, the most obvious candidate, and an early favourite for selection.
Women are almost as rare as artists on the list, with Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth I, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria and Margaret Thatcher being the only ladies in the top 25.
But there’s only one way to find out. Vote.