Marc Quinn replaces Bristol’s Edward Colston statue with one of BLM protestor, Jen Reid

Quinn and Reid have been working on the statue in secret for the last few weeks and hope it will act as a spark to keep the conversation around racial inequality at the forefront.

15 July 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read

This morning artist Marc Quinn replaced the toppled statue of slave trader Edward Colston with one of Jen Reid, a Black Lives Matter protester and one of the people involved in the action which saw the statue come down last month.

The original statue was torn down by angry protestors in June amidst the Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol before being rolled towards the harbour-side and pushed into the water. Many protestors then took to the empty plinth to give speeches and rally the crowd. Reid was photographed standing on the plinth with her fist raised, and it’s in this pose which Quinn has imagined the activist. A cardboard sign reading “Black lives still matter” was also placed at the base of the plinth, clearly denoting the team’s intention – to ensure the conversation does not die down.

Quinn, along with a team of ten people arrived early this morning, with no prior announcement, and installed the figure with Reid explaining that she had been working on the statue in secret with the artist for several weeks. One member of the team, Hassan Akkad, took to Twitter after the installation, writing “It was great working with Marc Quinn on this. The statue of Edward Colston had just been successfully replaced with a sculpture of Jen Reid; a Bristolian BLM protestor.” Reid herself is reported to have said “It’s just incredible… That’s pretty fucking ballsy, that it is.”

The statue, which is made from black resin, is titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020 and Quinn has confirmed that he did not have formal consent from the authorities. In a joint statement on the artist’s website, Reid said: “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.” It’s a moment she describes as “totally spontaneous”, continuing to say, “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.”

Quinn adds: “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. I contacted Jen via social media to discuss the idea of the sculpture and she told me she wanted to collaborate.”

They outline that they are “not putting this sculpture as a permanent solution to what should be there – it’s a spark which we hope will help to bring continued attention to this vital and pressing issue.” You can read the duo’s full statement on Quinn’s website, here.

The statue is entirely not-for-profit and, if sold, all proceeds will be donated to two charities chosen by Reid: Cargo Classroom, a Black history syllabus created for Bristol teenagers, and The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise founded in 2019 by young people to address the lack of Black British history in the UK school curriculum.

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Marc Quinn: A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020. Image via the artist’s website

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Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

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