The public display of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston lying flat after being torn down during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol last year has been branded a ‘partisan act’ by an art critic.
Its new home is at the M Shed museum in the city alongside placards from the protest and a timeline of events and the figure is displayed lying on a wooden stand.
The authorities say its positioning is down to money and because it wants the public to tell them how it should be shown in future.
But today art critic Alastair Sooke, 40, suggested they had already taken the decision themselves, given the exhibition.
He said: ‘Dredged from the riverbed, Colston’s effigy has been kept out of sight in storage, like a disgraced celebrity awaiting trial. Colston lies flat, overturned like a vanquished chess piece.
‘Presented alongside BLM placards, he’s still covered with graffiti, too. According to the authorities, the display is only temporary, designed to canvas public opinion about what should happen to the statue.
‘Moreover, it would, they say, be too costly for now to stand Colston upright again safely – hence, his supine position.
Almost exactly a year since it was toppled, the bronze (pictured) will go on public display at the M Shed museum in the city alongside placards from the protest and a timeline of events
The bronze memorial to the 17th century merchant had stood in the city since 1895, but was pulled from its plinth during the demonstration on June 7 last year. Pictured right: A picture from 1895 issued by Bristol Archives showing the ceremony for the statue of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston
‘But that strikes me as mealy-mouthed. Let’s not pretend that presenting the statue horizontally is impartial, when, really, it’s a partisan act,’ he told the Telegraph.
The bronze memorial to the 17th century merchant had stood in the city since 1895, but was pulled from its plinth during the demonstration on June 7 last year.
It was damaged as it was dragged through the city to the harbourside, where it was thrown in the water at Pero’s Bridge, which is named in honour of enslaved man Pero Jones who lived and died in the city.
Days later, the statue was recovered from the water by Bristol City Council and put into storage before months of work to clean and preserve the state it was in.
Members of the public are being asked by the We Are Bristol History Commission, which was set up following the protest, what should happen to it next.
Dr Shawn Sobers, associate professor at the University of the West of England and part of the commission, said the effects of the statue being pulled down ‘ricocheted’ across the UK and the world
Options include removing the statue from public view entirely, creating a museum or exhibition about the transatlantic slave trade, or restoring the statue to its plinth.
Dr Shawn Sobers, associate professor at the University of the West of England and part of the commission, said the effects of the statue being pulled down ‘ricocheted’ across the UK and the world.
‘We know this isn’t an isolated incident, we know that there are statues across the world that celebrate slavers,’ Dr Sobers said.
‘At the same time, the anti-racist movement isn’t about statues. It’s trying to eradicate racism from society and bring equality where there’s racial disparity which cuts across economic divides.
‘But statues are a symbol of how seriously our cities in Britain are actually taking these issues.’