Marc Quinn replaced a recently toppled statue of a slave trader with a sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester.

Daria Simone Harper
Jul 15, 2020 4:02PM, via BBC News

Marc Quinn, A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), 2020. Image © Marc Quinn studio.

British artist Marc Quinn has installed a resin sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester on top of the plinth in Bristol that was previously occupied by a statue of slave trader Edward Colston. The black resin sculpture, A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) (2020), depicts Bristol resident Jen Reid, who was photographed standing atop the empty plinth with her right fist raised after the Colston statue was knocked down last month.

Quinn, best known for his sculptural portraits made from organic materials, was inspired to create the life-sized sculpture after seeing the aforementioned image of Reid on Instagram. If the work is sold, all proceeds will be donated to two charities, Cargo Classroom and The Black Curriculum.

Reid said in a press release:

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.

Jen Reid with the Marc Quinn sculpture A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) (2020). Image © Marc Quinn studio.

According to a joint press statement, Reid and Quinn did not seek “formal consent” to install the sculpture. Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees responded to the lack of council permission in a tweet, writing: “Anything put on the plinth outside of the process we’ve put in place will have to be removed.” A little over 24 hours after it was placed on the plinth, the Quinn sculpture was removed, BBC News reported.

Some questioned Quinn’s professed altruism and called for more meaningful allyship from white artists. In an opinion piece for The Art Newspaper, artist Thomas J. Price wrote that “Quinn has literally created the votive statue to appropriation,” and went on to suggest that a more meaningful response would have been “to give the financial support and production facilities required for a young, local, Black artist to make the temporary replacement.”

In a series of Instagram stories, artist Larry Achiampong articulated similar critiques of Quinn’s sculpture, saying:

The point of all of this is about the redistribution of equity, of power. So simply just putting up a sculpture, which looks way better, is not enough. Who’s being given the opportunity, who’s being given the chance? Even if it were this, even if it’s all simply from Marc Quinn’s own money, that still doesn’t matter. Why not actually support some young black artists to make something and put something up there—to give them time, to give them space.

Marc Quinn, A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), 2020. Image © Marc Quinn studio.

Update: July 16th, 2020

Marc Quinn’s sculpture was removed about a day after it was installed. It also provoked criticisms and calls for more meaningful allyship. This article has been updated to include these developments.

Daria Simone Harper
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019