Jen Reid poses next to a sculpture by Marc Quinn portraying her, titled ‘A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020’, in London, Britain July 14, 2020, in this image obtained from social media. Picture taken July 14, 2020. Courtesy of Marc Quinn Studio/via REUTERS

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

This morning, a sculpture of protester Jen Reid titled “A Surge of Power” that had replaced a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol was removed by authorities. The Colston statue was originally taken down by protesters on June 8. The sculpture of Reid was installed without permission from the city.

In a joint statement published yesterday, artist Marc Quinn and Reid described the inspiration for the sculpture and the reasoning behind its clandestine placement upon the empty plinth. Quinn saw a photo on Instagram of Reid standing on the vacant plinth with her fist raised in a Black Power salute in June in a “totally spontaneous” gesture. The sculpture of Reid was intended to continue “pushing inclusion to the forefront of people’s minds.” The sculpture is not-for-profit and, if it sold, all proceeds would be donated to Cargo Classroom, a Black history syllabus created for Bristol teenagers, and The Black Curriculum, an organization founded to address the lack of Black British history in UK curriculum.

The Bristol City Council stated on Twitter that the sculpture was removed to be “held at our museum for the artist to collect or donate to our collection” and linked to a post from Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees. In his statement, Rees said, “The future of the plinth and what is installed on it must be decided by the people of Bristol. This will be critical to building a city that is home to those who are elated at the statue being pulled down, those who sympathise with its removal but are dismayed at how it happened and those who feel that in its removal, they’ve lost a piece of the Bristol they know and therefore themselves.”

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, stated that Colston’s statue had been debated for decades with no results, so “No wonder protesters lost faith in democracy and took the decision to remove Colston out of politicians’ hands.” She expressed hope that the sculpture of Reid is “not just tolerated, but maybe even admired and celebrated by the city for long enough for its people to claim her, and then to use their democratic rights to choose her.” Following the sculpture’s removal Thursday morning, Activist Deasy Bamford said, “It took them 35 years to do nothing and 24 hours to do something, 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.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Edward Colston’s statue stood for 125 years. The Black Lives Matter statue that replaced it stood for about 25 hours – CNN – 7/16/2020
A statue of a Black Lives Matter protester in Bristol, England, secretly installed overnight on the plinth where a monument to a slave trader had previously stood, has been removed by the local authority. […] The impromptu display, set up without the knowledge of Bristol’s council, lasted just one day before being taken down and moved to a museum.

Black Lives Matter sculpture erected in UK town removed after 1 day – Fox News – 7/16/2020
A sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester installed without authorization on the site where a monument to a 17th-century parliamentarian and slave trader was ripped down by protesters last month was taken down by the city after just one day, according to a report. […] “Whether it’s there for a day or a week or a month, it’s been there,” Reid said on Wednesday before it was taken down, according to The Guardian.

Bristol Removes Statue of Black Protester After Just One Day – The New York Times – 7/16/2020
In an earlier interview, Mr. Quinn said he did not expect Bristol to leave the statue, titled “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid),” in place permanently, though he hoped it would be there long enough to provoke a conversation about “how we commemorate people in statues.” He called it a “temporary sentence in the conversation.”

The problem with Marc Quinn’s Black Lives Matter sculpture – The Art Newspaper – 7/16/2020
In my experience, Black artists are frequently only accepted when talking about race. Whereas, white male artists have often been afforded the freedom to explore whatever subject matter they want. So, it is even more disappointing to see issues pertaining to race claimed by white artists. Instead, I think it would be more useful if white artists confronted “whiteness” as opposed to using the lack of Black representation in art to find relevance for themselves.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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