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.
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".
It was great working with Marc Quinn on this. The statue of Edward Colston had just been sucessfuly replaced with a sculpture of Jen Reid; a Bristolian BLM protestor. pic.twitter.com/T5PJGJ5mwY— Hassan Akkad حسان عقاد (@hassan_akkad)July 15, 2020
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.
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".