Specimen Florae Britanniae, by Justine Smith, 2019

The Bank of England Museum commissioned artist Justine Smith, to create an artwork celebrating 325 years since the Bank of England was established in 1694.

About Justine Smith

Smith's work explores the concept of money and how it impacts almost every aspect of our lives.

Her work looks at money’s connection to power and the value systems which surround it. Physically a note is a piece of paper but what it represents is central to Smith’s work. Through her collages, prints and sculptures, she examines our relationship with money in a political, moral and social sense, whilst exploiting the physical beauty of the notes.

She has exhibited her work in galleries and museums internationally. Notable collections include The British Museum, The British Council, The British Library, The Royal Mint Museum and the UK Government Art Collection along with many international corporations, financial institutions and private collections. She lives and works in London.

About the artwork

Justine Smith created this delicate botanical sculpture using genuine Bank of England £50 series E notes that were marked for destruction because they were an old design or uncirculated test notes. The Bank of England started issuing these red £50 notes in 1994. They were withdrawn from circulation in 2014. 

The £50 series E banknote was designed by Roger Withington. The back features a portrait of  the Bank of England's first governor, John Houblon. It also shows a drawing of Houblon's house which once stood on the site of the Bank of England's Threadneedle Street building. A small design features a Bank of England gatekeeper in his distinctive pink robes.

Justine Smith used the notes to create a range of wild British plants: dog roses, wild cherry blossom, ox eye daisies, hazel, bindweed and daffodils. The stems are made of real twigs which she collected from Battersea Common. Smith made the flowers in her studio before bringing them to the Bank of England to be assembled into a bouquet. The bouquet is held in a silver water jug made by silversmith Anthony Nelme in 1694 -the year the Bank of England was established. The jug, which is part of the Bank of England's permanent collection, was once used in the Bank's parlours.

Justine Smith assembling the work

Smith said, 'I am excited to see my work joining the collections of the Bank of England and lining up alongside 324 objects spanning its history. I am interested in the idea of wild flowers being tenacious and sturdy and finding their way to thrive wherever they can. And I’m using banknotes and I see them as a symbol of labour, strength and continuity – of putting down roots.' 
This page was last updated 31 January 2023