Marc Quinn’s statue replacing Colston in Bristol: Political act? Or complete PR stunt…?
The statue was “erected” at 5am this morning, as reported by the press.
Even Channel 4 filmed the supposedly secret event…
The reactions are polarised in Bristol and the UK to say the least, but especially in the art world.
Of course, many activists are supporting the piece and especially the woman it represents: Bristol protester Jen Reid, who said to the same Guardian that she ‘shed a tear’ when she saw a sculpture of her replace that of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol this Wednesday. She has worked with Quinn for days to get this piece done.
Meanwhile, alt-right militants are outraged to see a black activist on this plinth… and threatened to take it down, might even do so tonight.
But also, many wonder why this came out of the blue, from an artist that has nothing to do with Black Lives Matter, Colston, or colonial history to begin with. Never supported political causes very strongly…
When Bristol-born and politically funny Banksy came up respectfully and jokingly on Instagram with a proposal representing the fall of the statue and the protesters in action, he was mocked as not valid enough. He went on to paint rats playing with masks in the Tube instead… in London where he probably spent the lockdown, as most of his life.
So why would a Londoner millionaire male celebrity be more appropriate?
Many in Bristol have since 7 June demanded a deep discussion about history and the role of public art. Others were quite satisfied to keep an empty plinth for a while, as a reminder of the recent events, before a new form of art could be envisioned, maybe without plinths or pedestals in general.
On Twitter, researcher in art Dr Edwin Coomasaru @ecoomasaru wrote:
Marc Quinn: “I have been listening and learning and one of the phrases that really struck me was, ‘White silence is violence.’” -um, not sure occupying more space is the response? If he really wanted to be involved he could have commissioned a Black artist
Artist Thomas J Price @TJPStudio commented: “Looks like #marcquinn literally just created the Votive statue to appropriation! #appropriationart”
I completely agree. Or at least give them a chance to!
Thomas Price is, withVeronica Ryan, one of the two Black artists commissioned to design t wo sculptures to become the first permanent artworks to honour the Windrush generation — — including a 2.7-metre (9ft) figure that will stand outside Hackney town hall in London.
In regards to these critics and to the operational mode used to bring the new statue to Bristol, it seems quite obvious that Marc Quinn has done something totally old-fashioned and typical: controlling the narrative as a white privileged celeb artist capturing a moment he has nothing to do with…
Again, his interview was already in the Guardian before most Bristolians could get a chance to see the plinth. All was prepared for publicity.
And again we have a man choosing to represent a woman, the traditional pygmalion idea.
I’m happy for the activist but I hope other artists will get their chance to express their experience around this century-long story.
For an artist who became known with a piece called ‘Self’, I guess it’s not surprising… Indeed t he first work for Marc Quinn to gain international fame was exhibited in 1991, when he was 27, and ‘Self’ is a, well indeed, self-portrait formed by a frozen cast of 10 pints of the artist’s blood. It is “an ongoing work, where the artist portrays himself every five years through a new cast with new blood.”
The mayor Marvin Rees reacted with this statement: “the future of the plinth and any memorials must be decided on by the people of Bristol.”
Hopefully, this Marc Quinn statue will be a temporary gesture, moved somewhere else as it’s really nice, and a younger, more edgy — and African/Caribbean — artist will get a chance to create something unique for this plinth as well.
Originally published at http://melissa-on-the-road.blogspot.com.