Peas Are The New Beans

In 2002, Lord Boateng was appointed Chief Secretary to HM Treasury, a post he held for three years. On his visit to the Government Art Collection to select artworks, he spotted Peas Are The New Beans by Bob and Roberta Smith, a 1993 painting that had just returned from another location.

A man standing in front of a colourful text painting

Echoing the style of street vendors’ signs and protest banners, this work uses bold text in the artist’s distinctive graphic style.

Bob and Roberta Smith – Peas Are the New Beans

Playfully proclaiming the nonsensical relationship between peas and beans, Smith’s work sparked a wonderful idea in Boateng’s mind as to how it would be received by visitors to his office. As he recalled in 2011:

“It was a piece of pop art which cast a less than respectful eye on that much-maligned breed “bean counters”. Cast in the role of “bean counter in chief” I welcomed anything that raised a laugh or at least a wry smile on the part of those awaiting scrutiny before they were ushered into my rooms at 1 Horse Guards Road [HM Treasury].”

Read about another (bean-related) artwork from the Government Art Collection that made an impact while it was displayed at the British Embassy in Tokyo from 2012 to 2016.