Black Lives Matter statue ‘work and decision of a London-based artist', says Bristol mayor

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read

A sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester erected on the plinth where a statue of slave trader Edward Colston used to stand is the "work and decision of a London-based artist”, Bristol’s mayor has said.

The life-size black resin and steel piece of Jen Reid, from Bristol, was created by Marc Quinn after seeing a photograph of her standing on the empty plinth where the Colston statue once stood.

The sculpture, entitled A Surge Of Power (Jen Reid), was installed shortly before 5am on Wednesday by Quinn's team without the knowledge or consent of Bristol City Council.

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn, which has been installed in Bristol on the site of the fallen statue of the slave trader Edward Colston.
A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn, which has been installed in Bristol on the site of the fallen statue of the slave trader Edward Colston. (PA)

A sign reading "Black Lives Still Matter" was placed at the foot of the plinth.

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

In a statement issued after the sculpture was erected, Rees said "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.”

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He acknowledged that change was needed but that it had to be done at a pace that "brings people with us”.

"The sculpture that has been installed today was the work and decision of (a) London-based artist," Rees said.

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

"It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed.”

Rees referenced a commission set up by Bristol City Council to tell a "fuller history" of the city, including the part played by black people, women, the working class, trade unions and children.

He said this would put the city in a better position to understand "who we wish to honour”.

A sign is placed at the base of A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn, which has been installed in Bristol on the site of the fallen statue of the slave trader Edward Colston.
A sign is placed at the base of A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, by prominent British sculptor Marc Quinn. (PA)

After the sculpture was installed on the plinth, Reid stood in front of it with her fist in the air.

On 7 June, protesters on the Black Lives Matter march used ropes to pull the Colston statue from its plinth in the city centre.

It was dragged to the harbourside, where it was thrown in the water, something Reid described as "a truly historical moment”.

Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol harbour, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in Bristol, England, Sunday June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally. (AP)

Bristol City Council retrieved the statue on 11 June and said it would be displayed in a museum along with placards from the Black Lives Matter protest.

Artist Quinn said of his creation: "The plinth of Edward Colston in Bristol seems the right place to share this sculpture about the fight against racism, which is undoubtedly the other virus facing society today.”

He said the sculpture was not being put on the plinth as a "permanent solution", and said that it may only last days or weeks before taken down.