A new statue created by artist Marc Quinn has officially replaced slave trader Edward Colston as a permanent fixture in Bristol.
The unveiling of the new statue comes just weeks after Black Lives Matter protesters in the city managed to pull down the statue of Colston and then throw it into the harbour.
Colston made his vast fortune from being a member of the Royal African Company, a group that transported over 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to the Americas. When he died in 1721, he left his wealth to various charities and his legacy is still visible in the name of Bristol’s streets, memorials and buildings.
Now though, the powerful presence of Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid offers a new hope of change in the addressing of institutionalised racism which remains a prevalent issue in modern society. Reid, a local stylist, was pictured standing on the empty plinth the day the original Colston statue tumbled.
London-based artist Marc Quinn, who used the original image as a point of reference, quickly got to work on his powerful new piece. Upon completion, he and a team of ten people arrived at the empty location and installed it without official permission from the council. While the work has garnered huge attention, no official word has been released by authorities and it is not yet clear how long the statue will remain.
“It’s just incredible,” Reid said in an interview with The Guardian. “That’s pretty fucking ballsy, that it is,” she added in reference to the unauthorised installation of the work.
Speaking about the project, artist Quinn added: “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. The only thing that could have stopped it would have been some kind of official intervention, but it didn’t happen. It looks like it’s alway been here.”
The artist later explained that “a professional outfit I’ve known a long time” installed the work so that it would be “extremely difficult to move”.
While the local people wait to hear an official statement from authorities, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees previously said: “The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol. 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.
“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.”
See the local reaction, below.