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Edward Colston statue in Bristol replaced by resin sculpture of Black Lives Matter protester

The Independent logo The Independent 15/07/2020 Independent Staff
a statue in front of a tree © Provided by The Independent

The statue of slave-trader Edward Colston that was toppled in Bristol last month has been replaced with a resin sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester in a secret pre-dawn operation.

Bristolian artist Marc Quinn said he had "crystallised" the moment activist Jen Reid stood on top of the empty plinth on 7 June and raised her fist aloft in a black power salute.

The unofficial replacement appears to have caught city officials and police off-guard. Photographer and filmmaker Hassan Akkad said on Twitter that he had worked with Quinn on the project and declared it a "success" shortly before 6am on Wednesday.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images) © 2020 Andrew Lloyd BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)

Colston worked for the Royal African Company in the 17th century and was later a Tory MP in Bristol, where many buildings and landmarks are still named after him. The statue of him by sculptor John Cassidy was erected in 1895.

Home Secretary Priti Patel called the toppling of the Colston statue, which was then thrown into Bristol Harbour, "utterly disgraceful" and "sheer vandalism".

But the act, coming in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in the US and after years of petitioning for the statue to be removed, has sparked a national conversation around statues of problematic historical figures.

Gallery: #BlackLivesMatter: Anti-racism protests across the world (Photo Services)

Quinn, who is best known for his 'Self' series of self-portraits made using his own blood, has previously immortalised US protests at the death of Alton Sterling in an oil painting, and produced works including a tapestry about the riots following the death of Mark Duggan in 2011.

He told the Guardian: “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.”

There are already calls on social media for the Bristol authorities to keep the Jen Reid statue, despite it being raised without permission. Quinn said it had been erected in such a way as to make it "extremely difficult to move".

A new black resin and steel statue entitled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" by artist Marc Quinn stands after the statue was put up this morning on the empty plinth of the toppled statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston, which was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, England, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On June 7 anti-racism demonstrators pulled the 18-foot (5.5 meter) bronze likeness of Colston down, dragged it to the nearby harbor and dumped it in the River Avon — sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) © ASSOCIATED PRESS A new black resin and steel statue entitled "A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020" by artist Marc Quinn stands after the statue was put up this morning on the empty plinth of the toppled statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston, which was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, England, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On June 7 anti-racism demonstrators pulled the 18-foot (5.5 meter) bronze likeness of Colston down, dragged it to the nearby harbor and dumped it in the River Avon — sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees previously said any decision on how the plinth should be used would be decided democratically through consultation.

View this post on Instagram

Today, Bristol resident Jen Reid and I have unveiled a new temporary, public installation, ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, on top of Edward Colston’s empty plinth in Bristol, England. This life-sized sculpture is based on an image I saw on Instagram of local resident Jen Reid standing on the vacant plinth with her fist raised in a Black Power salute, a spontaneous moment following a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020. During the protest, a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was toppled from this spot. Cast in black resin, this new sculpture ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’ takes its place - no formal consent has been sought for the installation. #blacklivesmatter #marcquinnart

A post shared by marcquinnart (@marcquinnart) on

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