Canadian Protesters Toppled Statues of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II to Protest the Commonwealth’s Treatment of Indigenous Peoples

As Canadians celebrated yesterday’s anniversary of the nation’s confederation, protesters in orange shirts marched to the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg and toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. The statues are seen by some as symbols of colonizing forces, and chants of “bring her down” spread throughout the group,

The protesters’ orange shirts commemorated the Indigenous children who were sent to notoriously vicious residential schools where abuse and even death were common. At least 150,000 children were forcibly taken from their families over the course of a century as part of an attempt by the government to assimilate Indigenous children into Canadian society. Ongoing revelations of their unmarked graves have been roiling the nation.

Protesters covered the base of both statues with red handprints, and a red paint-splattered sheet covered Victoria’s head, as people tied ropes around her neck in order to bring down the monument. One man was arrested, though it is unclear what connection he had with the protesters. The activist group Idle No More led calls on social media for #CancelCanadaDay, and spread other hashtags including #NoPrideInGenocide, #BringOurChildrenHome, and #SearchEverySchool. 

In Victoria, which is Lək̓ʷəŋən Territory, a statue of Captain James Cook was dismantled and thrown into Victoria’s Inner Harbour and more red handprints were painted on the empty pedestal. Cheers erupted as the bronze figure fell onto the street, and red wooden dresses were placed around the statue to represent murdered and missing Indigenous women.

“The city of Victoria should remove all monuments that celebrate settler colonialism,” one Instagram user wrote in a caption to the video, “NO PRIDE IN GENOCIDE.” 

Last month, protesters in Toronto felled a statue of Egerton Ryerson, a figure who is considered the architect of the residential school system. 


The protests come on the heels of the Lower Kootenay Band’s announcement that the remains of another 182 children had been found in unmarked graves. 

That comes after news in May that the remains of more than 200 children were found on the grounds of a former residential school in unmarked graves. The discovery at Kamloops Indian residential school, which was the largest school of its kind in Canada, prompted outrage among citizens, especially those within the Indigenous community. At the time, Prime Minister Justin Troudeau called it a “tragedy” that “kids were taken from their families, returned damaged, or not returned at all.” 

In June, Vancouver-based artist Tamara Bell installed 215 pairs of shoes on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery to represent the children discovered in May, and community members placed flowers, messages, and stuffed animals alongside the grim display.

In a statement on Canada Day, Trudeau said that “the horrific findings of the remains of hundreds of children at the sites of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have rightly pressed us to reflect on our country’s historic failures, and the injustices that still exist for Indigenous peoples and many others in Canada.” He added: “We as Canadians must be honest with ourselves about our past.”

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Artist Says His Golden Sculpture of Trump With a Magic Wand at CPAC Is ‘Definitely Not an Idol’ + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Monday, March 1.


Rockefeller Retrieves Guernica Tapestry From the UN – The United Nations has returned a tapestry replica of Picasso’s Guernica to the Rockefeller family, which loaned it to the UN headquarters in New York back in 1985. The 25-foot-long replica that hung outside the security council chamber was commissioned by the Rockefellers in the 1950s, and has been returned on request to its current owner, Nelson Rockefeller, Jr. (New York Times)

UK and Irish Galleries Reach Truce Over Collection – London’s National Gallery and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin have ended a century-long dispute over the ownership of 39 masterpieces by artists including Manet and Degas. Irish collector Hugh Lane officially bequeathed the works to the London institution but changed his mind before his death and decided he wanted them to remain in Ireland. Now, per a new 10-year partnership agreement, both institutions will work together to care for and display the works on rotation. (Guardian)

A Celebratory Trump Sculpture Comes to CPAC – The hottest attraction at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando was a six-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture of Donald Trump painted in gold, wielding a magic wand. Trump-supporting artist Tommy Zegan created the work in 2018, when he was appalled to find so few statues dedicated to the president (and even fewer that were flattering). At the Republican summit, the steadfastly pro-Trump mood was exemplified by the line of attendees seeking to take photos with the sculpture. “It’s definitely not an idol,” Zegan clarified. (NYT)

Gilbert and George Condemn “Shameful” Statue Toppling – In an interview about their latest body of work responding to the pandemic, septuagenarian artist duo Gilbert and George have decried the removal of controversial public monuments as “shameful behavior.” Gilbert told the Guardian: “Leave them as they are, because they are part of the city.” In the same interview, George called the British empire “a wonderful invention.” (Guardian)


Dealers Rethink Their Real Estate Needs – Some dealers are reconsidering the need for a permanent brick-and-mortar space amid the migration of art sales online in 2020, the growing trend of galleries renting out pop-ups ins the Hamptons, Aspen, and Palm Beach, and the establishment of dedicated gallery hubs by Frieze and Cromwell Place in London. (NYT)

Perrotin Now Represents Alain Jacquet – Emmanuel Perrotin now represents the French artist and New Realist pioneer. The gallery will open the first survey of Jacquet’s work in nearly two decades in Paris on April 10. “His work is revolutionary within the context of postwar image distribution, and you can see his influence embedded in the work of a number of significant contemporary artists,” Perrotin says in a statement. (Press release)


More Than 160 Confederate Symbols Removed in the US Last Year – The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that more than 160 Confederate symbols were removed from public space in 2020. The nonprofit, which campaigns for the removal of Confederate symbols and imagery, says last year saw more progress than the previous four years combined. More than 2,100 symbols, including 704 Confederate monuments, remain standing across the US. (NYT)

Help Bring the Lithuanian Pavilion to Germany – E-WERK Luckenwalde, a renewable power station and art center south of Berlin, is crowdfunding to bring Sun & Sea, the environmental opera that won the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, to the empty Bauhaus Stadtbad in May. Its Kickstarter launched today and aims to raise €40,000 (around $48,000) by April 5. (Press release)


Report Finds Belarus Culture Figures Face Repression – A new report by Amnesty International has condemned the repression of cultural figures in Belarus since the disputed re-election of the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko in August. The organization expresses concern over the arrest and torture of artists, actors, musicians, and poets who have expressed opposition views. (The Art Newspaper)

JR’s New Work Raises Awareness of Australian River System – The French street artist created four enormous portraits of local farmers and a Baakandji artist for the National Gallery of Victoria’s ongoing triennial. The installation is part of an ongoing campaign to attract investment in Australia’s languishing Darling/Baaka River. The blown-up portraits were taken on a procession down the river, while stained-glass versions are on display in an open-air chapel in the garden of the NGV. (Guardian)

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The City of London Will Remove Two Statues of Slaveholders From Its Headquarters

The City of London, the municipal governing body that oversees the city’s historic centre, where much of the UK’s financial sector is located, will move two statues of controversial historical figures who profited from the Transatlantic slave trade from its Guildhall headquarters.

Following a recommendation from its Tackling Racism taskforce, a City subcommittee voted yesterday, January 21, to remove the statues of former Lord Mayor of London William Beckford and 17th-century merchant Sir John Cass.

“The slave trade is a stain on our history and putting those who profited from it literally on a pedestal is something that has no place in a modern, diverse city,” the co-chair of the Tackling Racism taskforce, Caroline Addy, said in a statement.

The City will now set up a working group to oversee the removal of the statues and consider what might replace them. The group will make its recommendations, which could include commissioning a new memorial to the slave trade, in the spring.

Statue of William Beckford in Guildhall. Photo by Stephen C Dickson via Wikimedia Commons.

Statue of William Beckford in Guildhall. Photo by Stephen C Dickson via Wikimedia Commons.

Beckford, who was twice Lord Mayor of London, accrued his wealth in the late 17th century from plantations in Jamaica, and held enslaved African people. His statue will be moved to a yet-to-be-determined location and replaced with a new artwork.

The statue of Sir John Cass, a 17th- and 18th-century merchant and former member of Parliament who also profited from the trade, will be handed over to the Sir John Cass Foundation, which owns it. The foundation did not respond to a request for comment from Midnight Publishing Group News.

The move comes days after Robert Jenrick, the UK’s secretary for housing and local government, vowed to introduce new legislation to make it more difficult for local authorities to remove monuments of controversial figures, arguing that public statues should not be removed “at the behest of baying mobs.” The proposed legislation would make it necessary for final decisions to be subject to federal government approval.

The decision to move the two statues from Guildhall came after more than 1,500 members of the public contributed to a consultation on statues and other landmarks in the area. It remains unclear whether the federal government will intervene to stop the removal of the monuments.

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