Slaver Statue Replaced with Sculpture of Black Lives Matter Protester

The sculpture was created and installed by London-based artist Marc Quinn. In response, Bristol's Mayor has said, "The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol."
July 15, 2020, 10:12am
marc quinn sculpture bristol
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA Images, via Getty Images

The statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston, torn down by demonstrators and rolled into the water of Bristol harbour in June, has been replaced with a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester.

Jen Reid, a stylist, was photographed standing on the empty plinth the day of the protest, which she attended with her husband. The artist Marc Quinn worked off that image to create the sculpture, which was installed by a team of ten people at around 5AM Wednesday morning, without official permission. Authorities are yet to announce what they plan to do with the location.

"It's just incredible," Reid told The Guardian shortly after the sculpture – titled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)" – was installed. "That's pretty fucking ballsy, that it is."

"It's incredible seeing it," said Reid's daughter, Leila, of the statue, which has a Black Lives Matter placard placed at its base. "It's surreal. From the kneecap to the shape of her hands, it's just her."

Marc Quinn, a British visual artist known for his sculptural "blood head" self-portrait, said, "I've always felt it's part of my job to bring the world into art and art into the world. Jen created the sculpture when she stood on the plinth and raised her arm in the air. Now we're crystallising it. The only thing that could have stopped it would have been some kind of official intervention, but it didn't happen. It looks like it's alway been here."

The sculpture was installed by a team that Quinn described as "a professional outfit I've known a long time", in such a way that it would be "extremely difficult to move". However, added Quinn, "It is ultimately moveable. This is not a permanent artwork."

Bristol City Council did not respond to the question of whether the sculpture would be immediately taken down, or temporarily left up. But in a statement, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said, "The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol. The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of London based artist. It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed.

"We have set out a process to manage our journey. We have established a history commission which help us tell our full city history. As we learn this fuller history including the part played by black people, women, the working class, trade unions, and children among others, we will be in a better position to understand who we are, how we got here and who we wish to honour."

While some locals were pleased to see the sculpture – "It's a really great addition to the centre of Bristol," one passerby told The Guardian – before long a sign had been left at the base of the plinth, reading, "Marc Quinn loves money, not blacks."

Asked whether there was an issue with the fact Quinn is white, Reid told The Guardian, "It's not even a question. If we have allies, it doesn't matter what colour they are. He has done something to represent BLM, and to keep the conversation going."