A new Black Lives Matter statue in Bristol has now been removed - here’s why

Thursday, 16th July 2020, 4:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th July 2020, 4:03 pm
The statue of slave trader Edward Colston was brought down in June by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol, and it has now been replaced with a sculpture of one of the protesters (Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

A secret pre-dawn operation saw artist Marc Quinn replace the empty plinth with a resin statue of activist, Jen Reid, on Wednesday (15 July).

However, Quinn’s statue was an unofficial replacement, being raised on the empty plinth without permission, and has now been removed by Bristol City Council just over 24 hours later.

Why has the statue of Jen Reid been removed?

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After the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was toppled down by Black Lives Matters protesters in June, Mayor Marvin Rees said it was up to the people of Bristol to decide what would replace the statue, and that any decision on how the plinth should be used in the future would be decided through consultation, in a democratic way.

When Quinn’s new statue was erected, Mr Rees said that permission was not requested for it to be installed.

The authority tweeted to say the sculpture of Ms Reid would be held at its museum "for the artist to collect or donate to our collection,” with Mr Rees saying he would "really welcome a contribution" from Mr Quinn, as it had cost the authority money to remove the statue.

What does the statue signify?

Quinn’s statue portrays the moment Jen Reid stood on the empty plinth on 7 June, where the statue of Edward Colston previously stood, after it was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Colston worked for the Royal African Company in the 17th century and was then later a Conservative MP in Bristol.

Many buildings and landmarks across the city are still named after him. Locals have previously regularly requested that the statue of him, made by sculptor John Cassidy and erected in 1895, be removed.

Black Lives Matters protester Ms Reid said in a statement that she had been on her way home from attending the protests in Bristol, when she felt an "overwhelming impulse" to climb onto the empty plinth.

The statue, created by Quinn, reflects the moment Ms Reid stood on top of the plinth and raised her fist into the air in a black power salute.

Quinn previously explained that the new statue is “crystallising” this important moment.

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.”

When the statue was erected, Quinn explained, "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."

Who is Marc Quinn?

Marc Quinn is a contemporary artist, who “makes art about what it is to be a person living in the world,” according to his website biography.

Quinn reflects a range of topics throughout his work, from man’s relationship with nature to what identity and beauty mean, alongside representing current, social history in his work.

He is best known for his 'Self' series of self-portraits, which were made using his own blood.

Quinn has also previously immortalised US protests at the death of Alton Sterling in an oil painting, alongside producing a tapestry about the riots following the death of Mark Duggan in 2011.