The Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 24 April 2016
The male artists risking jail to revive Suffragettes' spirit
By Hannah Furness
More than a century ago, the Suffragettes embarked on an innovative underground campaign, using coins to spread their Votes for Women slogan across the land.
Now, some of Britain's most successful male artists are to take a leaf out of their book, with a guerrilla campaign of their own.
Jake and Dinos Chapman are planning to stamp the women's equality message on to twopenny coins, returning them to circulation to try to raise awareness of a political party dedicated to the cause.
They have joined artists including Damien Hirst to raise funds for the Women's Equality Party, founded by Sandi Toksvig, the broadcaster, and Catherine Mayer.
The party, which has no major corporate donors or multimillionaire backers, is raising money to fund its campaigns, including paying for Sophie Walker to stand as a candidate for London mayor.
Hirst and Ryan Gander, a fellow artist, are offering support, creating pieces to be auctioned off to raise funds.
Hirst's Spin Drawing for Women's Equality (2015), designed in the original Suffragette colours and featuring the party's logo, fetched £20,000 at auction this month.
But the Chapman brothers are intending to go a step further, taking the law into their own hands to create an underground art movement that will lead to hundreds of their stamped 2p coins turning up in tills around Britain.
They hope it will raise awareness among people surprised by the message on their coins.
"It is 87 years and nine months since the Suffragettes' campaign culminated in women being granted equal voting rights with men, yet women are still grotesquely under-represented in the political system and disadvantaged in most areas of life." said Jake Chapman.
"The art world is no exception. So Dinos and I decided to revive and recalibrate the Suffragettes' campaign in support of women in their struggle for equality."
The pair will use hundreds of coins of small denominations so they reach people at all levels of wealth, using letter punches to stamp "Women's Equality Party" onto the surfaces.
"The title of the project is Women Hold up Half the Sky," he told The Sunday Telegraph.
"It's absolutely necessary and fundamentally important to support women's equality. It's mad that it's a necessary thing to have to consider.
"Women feel so ill served by the old political parties that nine million of them didn't vote at all at the last general election, so the Suffragette protest has a new resonance and validity."
He added he had been "amazed" by the Suffragettes' coin campaign, saying it was both a radical and positive message to send to the disempowered.
While the campaign is intended as light-hearted, some have suggested the artists could face prosecution.
Section 10 of the 1971 Coinage Act outlaws melting down or breaking up any metal coin in circulation.
Punishments include a fine of up to £400 or, if convicted on indictment, even a prison term of up to two years.
Ms Mayer, the party president, said: "We are immensely grateful to Ryan Gander, Damien Hirst and the Chapmans. They are helping us compete on a level playing field with much bigger, older, richer parties and raise awareness of the barriers to equality.
"Politics is dominated by white, affluent men. We aim to open up politics, and the support of these artists is hugely helpful."
Founded last year, the Women's Equality Party now has 45,000 members.