Why the new £20 note could leave the Bank of England with another equality crisis

The public can nominate artists for the spot until July 19

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The Independent Online

The Bank of England has said a visual artist will appear on the next £20, sparking fears that a debate about equality on banknotes could be revived.

The bank has called for public nominations for the figure. The successful candidate will replace Adam Smith, the economist currently on the note, in the next three to five years.

But there simply aren’t many very successful female artists to choose from. Only Georgia O’Keeffe represents women in the top 50 auction sales ranked by price last year.

Nominations can also be sculptors, printmakers, designers, craftspeople, ceramicists, architects, fashion designers, photographers and filmmakers  - just as long as they are no longer living – but even that does not drastically improve the stakes.

There was public outcry last time the Bank of England planned to switch the figureheads on bank notes. A decision to replace Elizabeth Fry, the campaigner, with Winston Churchill on the £5 note meant there would be no women on banknotes in the UK.

Jane Austen was announced as the new face of the £10 note, replacing Charles Darwin in 2017.

There will still be a gap of about a year in between Elizabeth Fry coming off the £5 note and Austen replacing Darwin on the £10 – though the old £5 notes will still be in circulation.