Black Lives Matter Figure Replaces Toppled Colston Statue in Bristol

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JULY 15: A new sculpture, by local artist Marc Quinn, of Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid stands on the plinth where the Edward Colston statue used to stand on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, England. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and …
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

A London-based artist has installed a statue depicting a Black Lives Matter protester to fill the empty plinth where the figure of Edward Colston once stood.

In June, Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol targeted the statue of merchant parliamentarian Edward Colston over his ties to the slave trade. The statue was toppled from its plinth in a outpouring of mob justice, before being dragged through the streets while being ceremonially beaten, before ultimately pushing it in the harbour, as local police stood back and watched.

Early on Wednesday morning, a group of ten people mounted a statue memorialising a Black Lives Matter activist, Jen Reid, who climbed upon the empty plinth during the chaos last month.

The sculpture, A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, made by London artist Marc Quinn has now taken the place of Colston. Despite the significant construction crew including a lorry-mounted crane to facilitate installation, the artist did not officially receive permission from the city of Bristol to erect the BLM statue, according to the Bristol Post.

The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said that the installation would only be permanent if the citizens of the city consent to it, saying: “The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of a London-based artist. It was not requested, and permission was not given for it to be installed.”

“My relentless commitment is to build a city for all Bristolians, with all our differences. To this end, the future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol,” Rees added.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JULY 15: Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid poses for a photograph in front of a sculpture of herself, by local artist Marc Quinn, on the plinth where the Edward Colston statue used to stand on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, England. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of an African American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police in the United States of America. The Mayor of Bristol has since announced the setting up of a commission of historians and academics to reassess Bristol's landmarks and buildings that feature the name of Colston and others who made fortunes in trades linked to slavery. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, ENGLAND – JULY 15: Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid poses for a photograph in front of a sculpture of herself, by local artist Marc Quinn, on the plinth where the Edward Colston statue used to stand on July 15, 2020, in Bristol, England. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

The subject of Quinn’s statue, Jen Reid, told the BBC that: “I think it’s something the people of Bristol really appreciate seeing.”

“When I was stood there on the plinth, and raised my arm in a Black Power salute, it was totally spontaneous,” she said, adding: “I didn’t even think about it. It was like an electrical charge of power was running through me.”

“This sculpture is about making a stand for my mother, for my daughter, for black people like me,” she proclaimed.

Marc Quinn told the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian: “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 always been here,” Quinn claimed.

“But it is ultimately moveable. This is not a permanent artwork,” the artist admitted.

BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JULY 15: A sign saying "Marc Quinn loves money not blacks" is placed on a new sculpture, by local artist Marc Quinn, of Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid on the plinth where the Edward Colston statue used to stand on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, England. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of an African American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police in the United States of America. The Mayor of Bristol has since announced the setting up of a commission of historians and academics to reassess Bristol's landmarks and buildings that feature the name of Colston and others who made fortunes in trades linked to slavery. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

BRISTOL, ENGLAND – JULY 15: A sign saying “Marc Quinn loves money not blacks” is placed on a new sculpture, by local artist Marc Quinn, of Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid on the plinth where the Edward Colston statue used to stand on July 15, 2020, in Bristol, England. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of an African American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police in the United States of America. The Mayor of Bristol has since announced the setting up of a commission of historians and academics to reassess Bristol’s landmarks and buildings that feature the name of Colston and others who made fortunes in trades linked to slavery. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Edward Colston, the British philanthropist and parliamentarian depicted in the toppled statue, partially earned his fortune through the slave trade during his time as a board member of the Royal African Company in the late 1600s.

Though much of his wealth came through the trade of fruits, wine, and fabrics, his ties to the slave trade — which was generally accepted during his lifetime, but was a practice later stamped out by the British government and the Royal Navy — saw him become the subject of a long-running campaign in Bristol in recent decades. While democratic means to remove the statue failed over the years, ropes and manpower unimpeded by police intervention did the trick in time.

So far only one of the dozens of vandals that toppled his statue has been arrested by police in Bristol.

The plinth where his statue stood was left empty for weeks before the installation of the Black Lives Matter monument, aside from a few hours last week when someone placed a mannequin depicting deceased paedophile and BBC star, Jimmy Savile on the stone column.

The mannequin was covered with a t-shirt that read “If Carlsberg did rapists”, a reference to a well-known advertising campaign implying Savile was a particularly effective rapist. A sign placed at the feet of the statue made reference to the growing campaign in the United Kingdom against the television tax which pays for the national state broadcaster the BBC, and read: “None of them stopped me, and your licence paid for it.”

Savile was a mainstay of the BBC for decades, starring in shows such as Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It. Following his death in 2011, hundreds of alleged victims of child sexual abuse came out to accuse Savile of molesting them. While it was claimed knowledge of his misdeeds was widespread in his own lifetime, nevertheless nothing was done until after he died.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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