Texas Liberal

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Fight Over Design Of Martin Luther King Statue

Chinese artist Lei Yixin is working on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. 

Above is a picture of the planned Martin Luther King statue for the Martin Luther King National Memorial on the Mall in Washington.

(Here is my Martin Luther King Reading & Reference List. It is the best list of its kind on the web.)

The man you see in the photo is sculptor Lei Yexin.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which must approve all statues for the Mall, has said it does not like the statue.

( Update 5/18/08–Here is a very good New York Times story on this subject. It discusses the King statue and the politics of putting new things on the Mall.)

From a Washington Post story— 

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts thinks “the colossal scale and Social Realist style of the proposed statue recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries,” commission secretary Thomas Luebke said in a letter in April…..

It is the second time in recent months that the memorial to the slain civil rights leader has come under fire. Last year, critics complained after a Chinese sculptor known for his monumental works of figures such as Mao Zedong was selected to create King and other elements of the memorial in China.

The $100 million memorial, which is being built largely with private donations by the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, is planned for a crescent-shaped four-acre site among Washington’s famed cherry trees on the northwest shore of the basin. Construction is expected to start this year and end next year.

The centerpiece is to be a 2 1/2 -story sculpture of the civil rights leader carved in a giant chunk of granite. Called the Stone of Hope, it would depict King, standing with his arms folded, looming from the stone. At 28 feet tall, it would be eight feet taller than the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.

I imagine the statue is not the soft image of Martin Luther King that has become the myth of his life with some. And I do see how the sculpture could be taken as something out of a dictatorship.

Still, I hope that whatever design is finally approved retains some of the discipline, and even harshness, found in King’s message of non-violence and divine review of America’s actions at home and in the world.

I also hope these objections are not a way at getting at the ethnicity of the artist. There has been controversy over the fact that Lei Yexin is Chinese. Martin Luther King would have accepted a sculptor of any race to honor his life’s work.      

May 12, 2008 - Posted by | Art, Martin & Malcolm | , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. King became famous, beyond his speeches, for leading marches. I would have liked to see a sculpture of him in stride, moving forward with determination.

    Comment by carsick | May 15, 2008

  2. Maybe that will be part of the final design since the current one is being rejected.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | May 15, 2008

  3. I think the stink over the artist being chinese is a joke and you are right Neil that king would not care who the artist was especially in regards to the race of the artist. maybe he would object if the artist was racist or violent but simply chinese. one out of 1.6 billion is the artist for this project. it would not matter if the artist was black or white or russion some one will always find a reason to bitch.

    Comment by bill brady | May 17, 2008

  4. Someone will indeed always find a reason to bitch. That is very true.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | May 17, 2008


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