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A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020, Marc Quinn, 2020
Courtesy of Marc Quinn

Edward Colston statue replaced by sculpture of Black Lives Matter protester

Artist Marc Quinn installed the unofficial resin-and-steel figure of Jen Reid at the site of the toppled Bristol slave trader in a secret early morning mission

The toppled statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol has been replaced with a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester in a secret pre-dawn operation.

The black resin and steel sculpture, entitled “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020”, was erected early this morning (July 15) by a team led by artist Marc Quinn. It features protester Jen Reid, a Bristol-based stylist who was photographed standing on the plinth with her fist raised, after the 17th century merchant was toppled by Black Lives Matter demonstrators last month.

“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,” said Quinn, who contacted Reid via social media to discuss the idea of the sculpture.

“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,” he added.

Speaking on the BLM protests, Reid said: “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. 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.”

She added: “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.”

Quinn said the unofficial sculpture is meant as a temporary installation to continue the conversation about racism and doesn’t know how long it will remain in place.

“Jen and I are not putting this sculpture on the plinth 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,” he explained.

“We want to keep highlighting the unacceptable problem of institutionalised and systemic racism that everyone has a duty to face up to. This sculpture had to happen in the public realm now: this is not a new issue, but it feels like there’s been a global tipping point. It’s time for direct action now.”

“The reasons why Jen and I 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,” he concluded.

Last month, the Stop Trump Coalition – a group established to protest the US president’s visit to the UK in 2017 – launched a website called Topple the Racists, which shows you which colonist monuments need destroying near you. See the full map here.