Public Media Arts Hub

People gather to view a new sculpture, by local artist Marc Quinn, of Black Lives Matter protestor Jen Reid on the plinth where the Edward Colston statue used to stand on July 15, 2020 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Black U.K. protester statue removed from pedestal in Bristol

BRISTOL, England — Officials in the English city of Bristol on Thursday removed a statue of a Black Lives Matter activist that was installed on a pedestal once occupied by a monument to a 17th-century slave trader.

Artist Marc Quinn created the resin and steel likeness of Jen Reid, a protester photographed standing on the pedestal after demonstrators pulled down the statue of Edward Colston and dumped it in Bristol’s harbor on June 7.

WATCH: These Black Americans see a statue memorializing Lincoln in different ways

It was erected before dawn on Wednesday without the approval of city authorities, but 24 hours later it was gone.

Bristol City Council said the sculpture “will be held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection.”

Colston was a trader who made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. His money funded schools and charities in Bristol, 120 miles (195 kilometers) southwest of London.

The toppling of his statue was part of a worldwide reckoning with racism and slavery sparked by the death of a Black American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.
City authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbor and say it will be placed in a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said the decision about what replaces it must be made by the people of Bristol.

“This is not about taking down a statue of Jen, who is a very impressive woman,” Rees told the BBC. “This is about taking down a statue of a London-based artist who came and put it up without permission.”

The speed with which events transpired disappointed people who had heard about the new statue and wanted to see it. Activist Deasy Bamford alluded to the long dispute over the presence of the Colston statue in expressing her exasperation over the new work’s quick exit.

“It took them 35 years to do nothing and 24 hours to do something,” Bamford said. “That says something, However I understand that they are playing a role so hopefully that statue will go somewhere in another iconic spot where everyone will see it where there is a proper plaque which explains exactly why it was put up and it belongs to Bristol.”

Jill Lawless reported from London.

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
+
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.