Who Will Design Harriet Tubman’s Portrait on the $20 Bill?

"Some people said it wouldn't happen until 2030," a Treasury spokesperson said.

Yann Guitton, Harriet Tubman from the
Yann Guitton, Harriet Tubman from the "Outsized Artifacts" series. Photo by Yann Guitton.

Last year, the US Department of the Treasury announced that Alexander Hamilton would cede his seat on the $10 bill to a celebrated woman in American history. The institution is making good on this promise, and then some, as a group of female suffragists will be featured.

What’s more, Ben White at Politico reports that Jack Lew, US Treasury Secretary, will announce on Wednesday that abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be dethroning slave-owning former president Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

This is great news for artist Yann Guitton, whom artnet News’s Sarah Cascone spotted at Brussels’s Vogelsang Gallery at the Affordable Art Fair this year. His prescient, larger-than-life version of the bill featuring Tubman is sure to gain more attention in the days to come.

But who will be responsible for designing the actual bill?

In a phone conversation with artnet News, Rob Runyan, a spokesperson for the US Treasury, declined to provide details about the design, stating that more will be shared soon. However, Runyan stated that the design process is much more complicated than enlisting the help of a single visual artist.

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in-house banknote designers work together to develop multiple concepts for new currency before the Secretary of the Treasury approves the designs. At which point, a group of engravers create 3-D renderings of the proposed bill. Like the designers before them, the labor for a single note is divided among those who specialize in different work, such as portraits, vignettes, and scripts.

Runyan told us that we can expect the new bill in 2020—a timely launch given that women’s suffrage will be celebrating its 100th anniversary that year in the US. “Some people said it wouldn’t happen until 2030,” Runyan said.


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