Edward Colston statue is replaced by unofficial sculpture of Black Lives Matter protester

The statue of slave trader Edward Colston has been secretly replaced overnight by a figure of a Black Lives Matter protester.

Last month, the 18th century merchant’s statue was torn down, dragged a third of a mile and thrown into the Bristol harbour.

His empty spot has been filled with a monument to Jen Reid – who was photographed on the plinth with her fist raised after the statue fell on June 7, inspiring the new installation. 

A cardboard placard reading ‘black lives still matter’ was also placed at the base. 

Titled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, the black resin and steel statue was erected in an operation at 5am this morning.

Permission had not been granted for the statue to be installed, and it is unclear whether it will remain. 

Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees issued a statement stating that the future of the plinth, and any memorials, must be decided by the people of Bristol. 

Edward Colston's empty spot has been filled with a monument to Jen Reid (pictured)

Edward Colston's empty spot has been filled with a monument to Jen Reid (pictured)

Edward Colston’s empty spot has been filled with a monument to Jen Reid (pictured)

Titled 'A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020', the black resin and steel statue was erected in an operation at 5am this morning

Titled 'A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020', the black resin and steel statue was erected in an operation at 5am this morning

Titled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, the black resin and steel statue was erected in an operation at 5am this morning

Pictured: The statue of Edward Colston being pulled from its plinth in Bristol city centre, June 7

Pictured: The statue of Edward Colston being pulled from its plinth in Bristol city centre, June 7

Pictured: The statue of Edward Colston being pulled from its plinth in Bristol city centre, June 7

He said he has established a ‘history commission’, which will help authorities ‘decide on city memorials and the future of the plinth’. 

A team of ten people led by artist Marc Quinn worked quickly and in secret – with the local council uninvolved in the stunt to erect the statue.

Workers arrived in two lorries and had the sculpture up within 15 minutes using a hydraulic crane truck parked next to the plinth.

Ms Reid told BBC Breakfast this morning the new statue had not been approved by the council, but added: ‘I think it’s something that the people of Bristol will really appreciate seeing.’ 

Mr Quinn told The Guardian: ‘Jen created the sculpture when she stood on the plinth and raised her arm in the air. Now we’re crystallising it.’

He said the statue would be a ‘temporary public installation’.

Now Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said in a statement: ‘My relentless commitment is to build a city for all Bristiolians, 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. This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathise with its removal but are dismayed at how it happened and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know and therefore themselves.

Bristolians stop to consider the unofficial replacement for the Edward Colston statue in the city centre this morning after award winning contemporary visual artist Marc Quinn. installed his own piece entitled 'A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)'

Bristolians stop to consider the unofficial replacement for the Edward Colston statue in the city centre this morning after award winning contemporary visual artist Marc Quinn. installed his own piece entitled 'A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)'

Bristolians stop to consider the unofficial replacement for the Edward Colston statue in the city centre this morning after award winning contemporary visual artist Marc Quinn. installed his own piece entitled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)’

‘We need change. In leading that change we have to find a pace that brings people with us. There is an African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. Our challenge is to take the city far. 

‘The art of building our city will be finding a way to live with our difference so that even where people do not get what they want, they know they live in a city that is their one and respects them.

‘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. 

‘Crucial to our heritage has been the harbour and the docks, manufacturing and industry, research and innovation, transport, slum clearances, housing, modern gentrification and faith. As the commission shares this information, the city will decide on city memorials and the future of the plinth.’

Protesters throw the statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally

Protesters throw the statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally

Protesters throw the statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally

A team of ten people led by artist Marc Quinn worked quickly and in secret - with the local council said to be uninvolved in the stunt

A team of ten people led by artist Marc Quinn worked quickly and in secret - with the local council said to be uninvolved in the stunt

A team of ten people led by artist Marc Quinn worked quickly and in secret – with the local council said to be uninvolved in the stunt

A black resin and steel statue titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by Marc Quinn is installed on the vacant Edward Colston plinth in Bristol city centre

A black resin and steel statue titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by Marc Quinn is installed on the vacant Edward Colston plinth in Bristol city centre

A black resin and steel statue titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by Marc Quinn is installed on the vacant Edward Colston plinth in Bristol city centre

The plinth has been largely empty in the weeks following the protests apart from a few temporary installations – including a mannequin of paedophile Jimmy Savile.

A SELF-PORTRAIT IN HIS OWN BLOOD AND A SOLID GOLD KATE MOSS: THE WORK OF ARTIST MARC QUINN  

Pictured: Marc Quinn, February 2020

Pictured: Marc Quinn, February 2020

Pictured: Marc Quinn, February 2020

British artist Marc Quinn, 56, describes himself as an artist whose works explore ‘what it is to be a person living in the world’.

His works include the 1991 sculpture ‘Self’, a cast of his head made entirely of his own blood and kept frozen by a refrigerated display unit’.

Mr Quinn writes that the work is ‘the purest form of self portrait… but also a comment on Man’s need for infrastructure, as the sculpture is kept ”alive” only by a mains electricity supply’.

He says that the symbolism could be substituted for other forms of dependence including addiction.

Other prominent works include the 2005 ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ – a fifteen-ton marble statue of pregnant and disabled Alison Lapper which was placed on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square in London.

'Alison Lapper, Pregnant' sculpture

'Alison Lapper, Pregnant' sculpture

‘Alison Lapper, Pregnant’ sculpture

It was later reimagined as the large inflatable sculpture, Breath, for the 2012 Paralympics opening ceremony.

Mr Quinn also created ‘Garden’ (2000), a frozen botanical garden displayed in Fondazione Prada, Milan; DNA Portrait of Sir John Sulston (2001), a genomic portrait of the genetic scientist its named after; and Evolution (2005), ten sculptures showing human embryos throughout its developmental stages.

He also created a series of sculptures of Kate Moss in a range of yogic poses, his 2008 work Siren (2008) – a solid gold sculpture of the model which was displayed at The British Museum in London.

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Bristol City Council and mayor Marvin Rees had said previously that a decision on the future of the plinth would be made democratically.

The statue of Colston is currently being restored after being fished from the water and will eventually be placed in a musuem. 

Writing on his website marcquinn.com, the artist said: ‘This sculpture captures a moment. It happened in the middle of the news and the worldwide ripple effect from George Floyd’s killing – all of which I had been following. 

‘My friend who knew this showed me a picture on Instagram of Jen standing on the plinth in Bristol with her fist in a Black Power salute. 

‘My first, instant thought was how incredible it would be to make a sculpture of her, in that instant. It is such a powerful image, of a moment I felt had to be materialised, forever.’

Mr Quinn writes that he then contacted Ms Reid over social media, and she said she wanted to ‘collaborate’.   

He adds: ‘Keeping the issue of Black people’s lives and experiences in the public eye and doing whatever I can to help is so important. Those of us who have privilege have a duty to be part of change. 

‘Something that Desmond Tutu said resonates with me strongly: ”If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” 

‘I think this sums up how we’ve reached the point where white people have to be allies and white people in positions of power need to speak up and actively combat racism. 

‘For me this has meant taking time to educate myself, listen to others and find a meaningful way of contributing. The reasons why Jen wanted to do this together are so important, this sculpture is an embodiment and amplification of Jen’s ideas and experiences, and of the past, present and her hope for a better future.’

His website also states that in 2005, he made a sculpture of Alison Lapper Pregnant for Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth. 

Ms Reid, in a joint statement with the artist, wrote: ‘On my way home from the protests on 7 June, I felt an overwhelming impulse to climb onto the plinth, just completely driven to do it by the events which had taken place right before. Seeing the statue of Edward Colston being thrown into the river felt like a truly historical moment; huge.

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

‘My immediate thoughts were for the enslaved people who died at the hands of Colston and to give them power. I wanted to give George Floyd power, I wanted to give power to Black people like me who have suffered injustices and inequality. A surge of power out to them all.

‘I’m collaborating with Marc Quinn on this project as he cares about pushing inclusion to the forefront of people’s minds and uses his art to make people think. 

‘Creating this sculpture is so important as it helps keep the journey towards racial justice and equity moving, because Black lives matter every day.

‘This sculpture is about making a stand for my mother, for my daughter, for Black people like me. 

‘It’s about Black children seeing it up there. It’s something to feel proud of, to have a sense of belonging, because we actually do belong here and we’re not going anywhere.’

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