Works of British-Indian sculptor featured in new British passport


London: The “inspirational works” of well-known British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor is featured on the new passport design of Britain, together with the likes of Shakespeare and other famous cultural figures from the past 500 years.

Mumbai-born Kapoor gained fame with the Lakshmi Mittal funded ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture created for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Kapoor was recently honoured with knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for his service to visual arts. The 61-year-old took over the Royal Academy in 2009, becoming the first living British artist of Indian origin to do so. Kapoor has received many international honours including the Premio Duemilia at the Venice Biennale and the Turner Prize.

the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture

The new hi-tech passport design which shows iconic buildings and monuments of the country, such as the Angel of the North and the Titanic Belfast, however, includes just two women– architect Elizabeth Scott and computer programmer Ada Lovelace—alongside seven men. This has led to a sexism row in the UK government.

Apart from Kapoor and Shakespeare, the other featured stalwarts include painter John Constable; inventor of the marine timekeeper, John Harrison; architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott; contemporary artist Antony Gormley; and Charles Babbage, popularly known as the father of the modern computer.

Passport Office Director General Mark Thomson said, “It was not something where we set out to have only two women. In trying to celebrate UK creativity over the last 500 years we tried to get a range of locations and a range of things around the country to celebrate our triumphs and icons over the years. So there you are.”

UK launches a new passport design every five years and the last one featured British birdlife and geography.

“Whenever we do these things there’s someone who wants their favourite rock band or icon in the book. We have 16 pages, a very finite space,” Thomson added.

When asked why authors like Jane Austen were left out, Thomson replied, “We like to feel we have got a good representative view celebrating some of the icons of the UK, including Shakespeare, John Constable and folks like that, and of course Elisabeth Scott. We have got a good representative sample.”

Apart from fibres embedded in the paper which fluoresce under UV light, new security features include a high security watermark design on each page, on which Shakespeare appears.

James Brokenshire, UK Immigration Minister, said that the new security features would make it very difficult to duplicate, “By using some of the most advanced technology and security measures around, this passport design is the most secure that the UK has ever issued.”

(Inputs from PTI and TOI)