The artist Marc Quinn has installed overnight a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protestor on the plinth in Bristol previously occupied by the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston. Quinn’s work, entitled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), 2020, depicts local resident Jen Reid who was photographed standing on the site with her fist raised after the statue of Colston was toppled last month.
The work, cast in black resin, was installed without council permission. “No formal consent has been sought for the installation,” a press statement says, adding that the piece is a “new temporary, public installation”. The mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, says: “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.”
He adds: “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... As the commission shares this information, the city will decide on city memorials and the future of the plinth.”
City residents appear broadly sympathetic nevertheless on social media. “Bravo to the artist Marc Quinn and his team for taking the initiative,” tweeted one commentator. The work is available for purchase with any proceeds going towards two charities, Cargo Classroom and the Black Curriculum.
On her way home from Black Lives Matter protests on 7 June, Reid says she felt “an overwhelming impulse” to climb up on to the empty plinth after the statue was removed. She says: “Creating this sculpture is so important as it helps keep the journey towards racial justice and equity moving, because Black lives matter every day.”
Quinn says the collaboration with Reid began after he saw a picture of her on Instagram, standing with her fist raised. “We want to keep highlighting the unacceptable problem of institutionalised and systemic racism that everyone has a duty to face up to,” he says in a statement.
UPDATE: This article was updated to include comment from the mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees.
UPDATE (16 July): The sculpture of Jen Reid was removed from the Colston plinth at around 5.20am this morning according to the Press Association. Bristol City Council tweeted: "This morning we removed the sculpture. It will be held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection. Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees issued a statement yesterday about the need for a democratic process where the people of Bristol decide the future of the plinth."