New £20 Note to feature JMW Turner

JMW 20


Photo: Anna Gordon

First time for a fine artist to be commemorated on UK sterling

“An acknowledgment of the immense historical value of the visual arts to the UK – but also a stark reminder that we must invest in and create the right economic conditions for the artists of the future,” says Victoria Pomery, OBE, Director of Turner Contemporary

The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney and Tracey Emin announce, at Turner Contemporary, that the next £20 will feature JMW Turner.

Turner Contemporary has partnered with the Bank of England to formally announce that the new £20 banknote will feature JMW Turner.

Turner, the first fine artist to be celebrated on a UK sterling bank note, was shortlisted following a period of public nominations in 2015 during which 30,000 people nominated 590 different visual artists that have had a significant and lasting impact on British culture and society.

A concept image showing how Turner will appear on the new £20 note was unveiled at Turner Contemporary today – a day before Turner’s birthday on 23 April. The world-class art gallery stands on the former site of JMW Turner’s lodging house in Margate. Its breath-taking views inspired Turner to describe the skies as the “loveliest in all Europe”. In its first five years since opening in 2011, Turner Contemporary has become a beacon of investment and regeneration for the surrounding area. With more than 1.9m visits, the gallery has generated £50 million for the Kent economy. It has curated and hosted world class exhibitions by leading contemporary artists, including Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry and Jeremy Deller, as well as hosting internationally important historical artworks, including Rodin’s The Kiss , and works by the likes of Anthony van Dyck, John Constable and Piet Mondrian.

The new £20 note will enter circulation by 2020 and as with the next £5 and £10 notes will be printed on polymer. As shown in the concept image, the design on the reverse of the note will include:

  • JMW Turner’s self-portrait, painted c. 1799 and currently on display in the Tate Britain.
  • One of Turner’s most eminent paintings The Fighting Temeraire; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played a distinguished role in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
  • The quote – “Light is therefore colour” from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to his innovative use of light, shade, colour and tone in his pictures.
  • Turner’s signature from his Will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.

In October 2016 the gallery will open a major exhibition exploring JMW Turner’s revolutionary use of colour. JMW Turner: Adventures in Colour will bring together over 100 works, including oil and watercolour paintings alongside engravings in the most ambitious survey of the artist ever staged at Turner Contemporary. In line with the gallery’s mission to present the history of art within the context of art of our own time, the works will be juxtaposed with Vertigo Sea, a multiscreen installation by contemporary artist John Akomfrah, exploring themes of whaling, the environment and our relationship with the sea.

To celebrate the launch of the new banknote in 2020, Turner Contemporary will commence an ambitious Twenty for Turner: Inspire Change fundraising campaign to be rolled out over the next four years. This will encompass a varied programme of fundraising opportunities, focused on the gallery’s vision of Art Inspiring Change within individuals, communities, schools and businesses, culminating with a national change of the £20 note in 2020.

Director of Turner Contemporary, Victoria Pomery OBE said:

“The decision to celebrate JMW Turner, one of the greatest technical pioneers in the history of British art, is extraordinary, not least because it has proven by a public vote that Turner is the nation’s favourite artist. Brilliantly, it is an official acknowledgment of the immense historical value of the visual arts to the UK. But it is also a stark reminder that we must place increasing value on our future as a nation of creative minds. We must invest to support the next great artists and innovators.”

Stephen Sunnucks, Chair of Turner Contemporary, said:

“JMW Turner’s international legacy has thrived thanks to the creation of Turner Contemporary, which after just five years has become one of the UK’s leading art galleries. Propelled by its mission of Art Inspiring Change, the team here has shown the power of visual art to stimulate economic investment and political willpower.”

John Kampfner, Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said:

“Turner Contemporary is one of the great cultural stories in the UK of the past decade. It is a testament to the gallery’s incredible success and the enduring legacy of JMW Turner that it is playing host to today’s proud moment. The Creative Industries Federation congratulates all concerned.”


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