On Wednesday, artist Marc Quinn made headlines by placing a statue of Black Lives Matter protester Jen Reid on an empty plinth where a monument to a 17th-century slave trader had stood in Bristol, England. The gesture was short-lived, however, as city officials removed the work around 24 hours after it had been erected.
In a statement, Marvin Rees, the mayor of Bristol, said that the statue had been “the work and decision of a London-based artist. It was not requested and permission was not given for it to be installed.” Plans for a permanent replacement of the monument—which had been taken down by protesters and thrown into a nearby harbor last month—have not yet been announced by Bristol’s city council.
A representative for Quinn did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement on Wednesday, Quinn said his work—titled A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020—was developed in collaboration with its subject and was not put in place “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. We want to keep highlighting the unacceptable problem of institutionalized and systemic racism that everyone has a duty to face up to.”
The statue that originally stood there paid homage to Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader. It was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters and thrown into the harbor during a week when activists across the world called for the removal of monuments honoring figures who espoused racist and colonialist views.
Quinn’s sculpture generated controversy of its own. In an Art Newspaper essay bearing the headline “The problem with Marc Quinn’s Black Lives Matter sculpture,” artist Thomas J. Price argued that Quinn, who is white, was not the best fit for an artist to replace the felled monument. “A genuine example of allyship,” Price wrote, “could have been to give the financial support and production facilities required for a young, local, Black artist to make the temporary replacement.”
Others praised the work, including Jen Reid herself, who said that she was “filled with pride” to be immortalized in such a manner.