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Respite for the Bean-counters at the Treasury

Selecting this work for his rooms in Whitehall when Chief Secretary to HM Treasury (2002-2005) Lord Boateng told us later that the work often helped raise a smile among staff and visitors alike

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.

By Chantal Condon, Curator (Public Engagement and Research), Government Art Collection.