Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Time To Start Over on MLK Statue

Martin Luther King was never an arms-folded kind of man. He was never one to tighten up against slings of opposition, never one to choose a cocky or grandiose pose.

Leaf through hundreds of photos of the man, and you see him standing before oceans of Americans, one arm raised to the sky, his mouth open in a call to unity. He reaches forward, rallying, cajoling, explaining. Or he is leaning in, head to head with Lyndon Johnson, and you can almost hear King, the gentle voice, the rock-hard logic.

Nowhere do I find King depicted the way a sculptor in China is interpreting him for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial that is supposed to be built at the Tidal Basin next year. Nowhere but in this proposed arms-crossed sculpture is King seen in the arrogant stance of a dictator, clad in a boxy suit, with an impassive, unapproachable mien, looking more like an East Bloc Politburo member than an inspirational, transformational preacher who won a war armed with nothing but truth and words.

The road to the King memorial has been difficult from the start. It has taken decades to raise the money, select the site and create the design. But of all the battles over how to remember King, this latest round is the most disturbing. As work continues in China on a model of the 28-foot-tall statue, the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts has issued a harshly worded denunciation of the image of King that is being carved out of foreign granite.

Far from the original concept of a King who is "dynamic in stance, meditative in character," the sculpture now being built "features a stiffly frontal image, static in pose, confrontational in character," says a letter from the commission secretary, Thomas Luebke.

The federal panel wants the sculpture reworked "to return to a more sympathetic idea." But the government's arbiters of art seek far too limited a fix. The problem is not merely one of artistic vision. The centerpiece of the memorial, known as the Stone of Hope, has gone completely off the rails. The solution is to start over.

It is simply wrong to have outsourced both the sculpting and quarrying of the granite -- and especially to China, a country whose government during King's lifetime called him a "reactionary running dog" for his advocacy of nonviolent protest. China even now stands firmly against King's vision of an open, free society in which power flows from below and people are cherished as individuals, not defined by group identity.

Harry Johnson, president of the King Memorial Foundation, has argued that hiring a sculptor from China, even if he is a Communist Party member whose works include tributes to Mao Zedong, is "no different from the Houston Rockets working with Yao Ming, or Jackie Chan in Hollywood movies. We don't want to take the stand to say African Americans can only work on this project."

But those analogies don't work: Yao and Chan came here to display their special talents, whereas the sculptor, Lei Yixin, is building the King statue in his Changsha, China, studio with a staff of 10 other Chinese sculptors, working with Chinese granite on a memorial to a great American figure for display on our country's most prominent showcase of historic symbols and stories.

It is not jingoism but rather a healthy sense of pride and loyalty that mandates that this memorial be designed and executed by those who live in the country that King so inspired and changed.

In Barre, Vt., craftsmen whose roots in stonework go back centuries have provided raw materials and artistry to the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials. No one ever gave those workers a shot at making the King sculpture.

"We've got incredibly talented sculptors who work wonders with granite," says John Castaldo, executive director of the Barre Granite Association. "Our manufacturers have said from the start that this design is not a representation of King, that it's all wrong."

Only after legislators protested the outsourcing did the Memorial Foundation agree to give some work to New England artisans. But that work is limited to other parts of the memorial, and still no Vermont granite firm has heard from the foundation, Castaldo says.

The Fine Arts Commission's latest critique "signifies that we were right as far as the Chinese's ability to create a likeness of Dr. King," says Gilbert Young, an Atlanta sculptor who founded the "King Is Ours" protest movement. Young's online petition against the choice of Lei specifies that an African American artist should get the job. But when I asked Young about that, he backed away, saying, "I would have no complaints if this was done in the United States by anyone who knows our culture, like the Asian woman who designed the Vietnam Wall."

So far, opposition to outsourcing the sculpture has come mainly from African Americans and the U.S. granite industry. "White people are afraid to attack the monument because they fear they'll be perceived as racist," Young says. "But Dr. King challenged us to talk about race without making accusations of wrongdoing."

King's message is universal, but his story is American. A memorial on the Mall requires American designers and artists to confront his legacy and thereby continue King's work.

By Marc Fisher |  May 11, 2008; 8:19 AM ET
Previous: Video Unlikely To Go Viral: The Tim Kaine Channel | Next: D.C. Chooses Shopping Over Arts

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



I don't care where the statue is made or who makes it, but I agree that the design is inappropriately angry-looking and confrontational. He sure doesn't look like he's dreaming that all of God's children will hold hands and sing "Free At Last" together.

Posted by: William | May 11, 2008 10:12 AM

Great analysis, Marc. It's amazing how controversial King is 40 years after his death, when the ideas he advocated were so simple and fundamental. I'm glad the Fine Arts Commission has put its foot down now.

Posted by: Mark | May 11, 2008 10:40 AM

Marc, you know I love ya more than my luggage, but I believe you got it half-right this time!

While the outsourcing of the memorial to China is appalling, I believe that the stance of Dr. King depicted may be more true than the "shiny, happy" image that most seem to wish to portray of him. Advocating for the non-violent resolution of disputes DOES NOT indicate a non-confrontational demeanor at all. To the contrary, Dr. King's legacy is one of staking out an ethical position on issues--racism, war, social justice--and refusing to be moved by the opposition...if that isn't confrontational, what is?

Given that Dr. King was deeply rooted in his faith, I reflect on Rev 3:15 when considering the statue's image: "because you are lukewarm--neither cold nor hot--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Dr. King was not called to be wishy-washy like the church at Laodicea, but to burn brightly with his passion, and that meant being resolute without violence...and a sense of purpose like that would appear confrontational to anyone opposing him. To me, it's a sign of character.

Posted by: bigolpoofter | May 11, 2008 11:11 AM

Saying that statue resembles a Politburo member is giving it too much merit -- the Soviets could crank out pap that at least looked dynamic. This thing barely resembles MLK, much less missing the tone of the man's life. How on earth did it wind up being awarded to this sculptor in the first place? This has never been explained.

Posted by: Georgetwoner | May 11, 2008 11:46 AM

I haven't read such a jingoistic screed, thinly veiled as esthetic criticism, since everyone attacked the choice of Mya Lin's design for the Vietnam memorial on the basis of the design rather than her ethnic background. And haven't we all had to suffer with that horrid design.

Posted by: DC aka La La Land | May 11, 2008 11:59 AM

Why does everyone want a smiling, waving MLKjr - some sanitized, mickey-mouse version of this man? That wasn't how he was perceived "at home" in his time, and doesn't capture the spirit of his accomplishments. The statue shows King as poised and confident, not cocky and confrontational.

I realize everyone thinks that they are an art critic; that's fine, but don't try censor the art that you find objectionable. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this censoring of art is far more chilling and totalitarian than any pose or artistic rendering will ever be.

Posted by: rhadams | May 11, 2008 12:05 PM

I don't like the emotion of the statue either, however I am surprised that you didn't recognize the arms-crossed pose of the photo of MLK standing in front of a framed picture of Gandhi. The photo was taken by Bob Fitch and shows The Reverend Doctor standing in exactly the pose of the statue, however with a decidedly more lively expression.

Posted by: Martiniano | May 11, 2008 12:11 PM

America likes its "minorities" the same way it likes Disney characters, smiling, pleasant, just so happy to be here. The idea of turning down a statue because it doesn't match the photos we've seen, or because a few commission members, whose job it is to sit on commissions and pretty much do as they're told, don't care for it, is this country at its sappiest.

Perhaps if they run through this little exercise after January 20, 2009, things might work out differently. While the Vietnam Memorial certainly rose above the process years ago, we seem to have become a lot dumberer in terms of our collective awareness of one another.

Of course, at this point, things can only get better.

Posted by: arty | May 11, 2008 12:24 PM

"It is not jingoism but rather a healthy sense of pride and loyalty..."

What a coincidence! I've noticed that someone who is being jingoistic always says that he or she is really just showing pride and loyalty.

The point about the nature of the statue is fine, but the idea that only an American should do it, and that there is something wrong with the sculptor situation, belongs on Lou Dobbs.

Posted by: ep thorn | May 11, 2008 12:27 PM

There is a difference between censorship and not liking a piece of art you've commissioned. When you commission it, you have the right to expect that it be made to please you. Think about a family portrait that dipicted the family in an aggressive, angry way contrary to your actual family dynamic. And to all who say King was a confrontational man, that he had to be to accomplish his peaceful objectives, I propose that Jesus was also a strong, forceful man (even more forceful) who fought for the good of mankind. How often do you see an angry-looking Jesus? The image of King should reflect his spirtuality, courage and, yes, strengh of character. This does none of that. I don't care who the artist is, but I do care that it be someone who can portray his legacy well.

BTW, I'm white and an agnostic. And I am thankful to MLK for helping to create the culture I live in today, one I can be proud of even while continuing to strive to reach all of King's ideals.

Posted by: ljb | May 11, 2008 12:32 PM

Mr. Fisher's suggested oh-so-uplifting "arm to the sky" pose reminds me of the awful World War II memorial. A monument can inspire without cramming cliche down your throat. The Vietnam memorial has been rightly mentioned several times, and I would add the FDR memorial too. I was intrigued by the under-siege MLK design: it suggested an aspect of the man i hadn't seen before.

Posted by: godlesspriest | May 11, 2008 12:43 PM

"China even now stands firmly against King's vision of an open, free society in which power flows from below and people are cherished as individuals, not defined by group identity."

Funny for the Post to say this: they and other liberals don't believe this either. They have constantantly push for group rights over the rights of the individual.

Posted by: joe g | May 11, 2008 12:46 PM

as has been noted here and by the sculptor, the sculptor used an actual photograph of King in a pose in front of his desk. the pose is fine with me, and infinitely superior to the cliche poses suggested by other poster. the problem noted by the commission (that it looks a bit too much like, say, Lenin's or Saddam's statue) and not like an earlier sketch that had him "emerging" from the stone, is easily fixed by reshaping the background stone, adding some here, removing some there. no big deal.

Posted by: JoeT | May 11, 2008 12:51 PM

as has been noted here and by the sculptor, the sculptor used an actual photograph of King in a pose in front of his desk. the pose is fine with me, and infinitely superior to the cliche poses suggested by other poster. the problem noted by the commission (that it looks a bit too much like, say, Lenin's or Saddam's statue) and not like an earlier sketch that had him "emerging" from the stone, is easily fixed by reshaping the background stone, adding some here, removing some there. no big deal.

Posted by: JoeT | May 11, 2008 12:52 PM

From what I've seen of the statue, I think a much better statue idea would come from the positioning of actor Bernie Casey in the film "Revenge of the Nerds," specifically when Casey's character points upwardly to John Goodman's character and tells him to leave the academic dean alone.

Y'all laugh, be offended, whatnot. I am a white guy who loves Dr. King and follow his dictates on passive resistance, dignified defiance toward an athority bathed in wrongness. Please remove the sillinesss of the Revenge of the Nerds movie and focus on the stance of the actor in this particular scene toward the end of the movie. It's Bernie Casey's character telling a person of authority to stop infringing on the rights of a "weaker" person. It's righteous.

Or, better, it conveys a higher righteousness that even Dr. King was reaching for in his message, that from God.

Has anyone seen the flick?

Posted by: Worthy | May 11, 2008 12:55 PM

From what I've seen of the statue, I think a much better statue idea would come from the positioning of actor Bernie Casey in the film "Revenge of the Nerds," specifically when Casey's character points upwardly to John Goodman's character and tells him to leave the academic dean alone.

Y'all laugh, be offended, whatnot. I am a white guy who loves Dr. King and follow his dictates on passive resistance, dignified defiance toward an athority bathed in wrongness. Please remove the sillinesss of the Revenge of the Nerds movie and focus on the stance of the actor in this particular scene toward the end of the movie. It's Bernie Casey's character telling a person of authority to stop infringing on the rights of a "weaker" person. It's righteous.

Or, better, it conveys a higher righteousness that even Dr. King was reaching for in his message, that from God.

Has anyone seen the flick?

Posted by: Worthy | May 11, 2008 12:55 PM

Whatever the merits or demerits of the design/image may be, it is an issue wholly separate from the place of origin of the monument. The quintessential American public icon, the Statue of Liberty, was conceived, designed, and fabricated in France.

Posted by: Bob Friedland | May 11, 2008 1:19 PM

The Chinese make great powerful statues and so do the Soviets. So i can understand why they would be considered.

Posted by: Fried Rice | May 11, 2008 1:29 PM

Personally, I'm not much into statues, whether they be of MLK, George Washington, or anyone else.

But, having some chinese make a statue of an American, ANY American, offends me.

The money could be better spent . . . and spent HERE in Ameria.

Posted by: DocChuck | May 11, 2008 1:32 PM

King certainly stood for the rights of "all" men toward the end of his life.

But, King was concerned about the conditions of Afro Americans primarily and obliquely the larger humankind. King's legacy of the very people he sought to change the world for is being forgotten in the name of infantile, deadhead liberalism.

His legacy, though part of the larger culture now, appears to be being taken away from the people he organized the bus boycotts and march on Washington for.

That no Afro American is even involved in making the statue is "shameful." There are skilled Afro American artists who should have been consulted and given the leadership role in making the statue. Moreover, to realize Kings "unversial" dream toward the end of his life, other artists--white, Asian, Native American, ethnic Hispanics/Latinos- from here in the states could have been employed could have been involved.

Unfortunately, the powers that be have decided to divorce King from the very people he became involved in politics for, neuter him when he was very controversial and far from being the "good, smiling Negro" the larger culture wants to reinvent him as.

Posted by: Jack K. | May 11, 2008 1:34 PM

["There is a difference between censorship and not liking a piece of art you've commissioned."]

That is a false dichotomy in this instance. We are not talking about a private-commission family portrait. This is a public statue. Of course people will disagree with each others' interpretations of the content of said statue - that's healthy and to be expected. But it's undeniably censorship to give the task of the statue to an artist (a plan that was, for the most part, pre-approved by the board, in any case!), and then to stifle the artist's vision because the statue doesn't fit some sanitized, singular taste that the censorship committee holds.

THAT is what I am saying is far more objectionable than any pose of a statue could ever be. Again, I personally like the pose; I don't think that we should litter the national Mall with statues that are all, basically, clones of the stutues already present.

Oh, to Fisher, the most snobby, elitist op-ed author on WAPO - it is so jingoism! The artist is someone who lives in China, not the Chinese Communist Party - give me a break! Fisher makes it sound like China, Inc. is the one actually doing the carving of this statue.

Posted by: rhadams | May 11, 2008 1:34 PM

The sculpture design was already made in Rocky Mount North Carolina by an American Artist from Chicago. So this monument is not an original idea for a public sculpture of Dr. King.

Mr. Fisher you are completely, patheticly wrong about Dr. King being a leaning in, smiling glad-hander. Mrs. King herself chose a photo image of Dr. King in a similar pose for the front cover of Dr. King's autobiography. It was an image cut at the waist and included a desk and a pen in his hand and he was not smiling, but contemplatively gazing out almost confrontationally.

I suggest you read it.

Posted by: Will Power | May 11, 2008 1:52 PM

The idea of China to make the statue was heavilly protested when the plan was conceived... This is not about hindsight at all it was a huge error to not have the African American comunity design and sculpt the statue from the start. Whoever was responsible for choosing China to make the statue to begin with should be held accountable for the bad decision. Martin Luther King would have wanted his memorial to be done by African American, not because of race, but because it proves that they understand the honor bestowed upon them and shows the direct progress on equality that King gave his life for. This is typical of bureaucratic idiocy that occurs every day in political decisions.

Posted by: jack5 | May 11, 2008 1:52 PM

Statues like this regularly get toppled around the world--Iraq being the latest.

Posted by: Jones | May 11, 2008 1:52 PM

Statues like this regularly get toppled around the world--Iraq being the latest.

Posted by: Jones | May 11, 2008 1:58 PM

The sculpture design was already made in Rocky Mount North Carolina by an American Artist from Chicago. So this monument is not even an original idea for a public sculpture of Dr. King anyway.

But Mr. Fisher you are completely, patheticly wrong about Dr. King being a leaning in, smiling glad-hander. Mrs. King herself chose a photo image of Dr. King in a similar pose for the front cover of Dr. King's autobiography. It was an image cut at the waist and included a desk and a pen in his hand and he was not smiling, but contemplatively gazing out almost confrontationally.

I suggest you read it.

Posted by: Art L. | May 11, 2008 1:58 PM

There is plenty of film footage of the late Dr. King. Why not take a representative frame and reproduce that? The current effort reminds me of those elderly stiffs atop Lenin's tomb, during the Soviet era, reviewing a parade of tanks and rocket launchers on May Day.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | May 11, 2008 1:59 PM

STOP TRIPPIN'. Of COURSE MLK stood w/folded arms, sometimes -- who doesn't? He was a MAN, not a saint! It's not that serious. Does every statue of a Black man need to fit the "good, smiling Negro" mold? I think NOT.

What, should he be shuffling, shuckin' and jivin'. Get a life, mayne...

Posted by: Ntlekt | May 11, 2008 1:59 PM

Re: Bob Friedland's comment "The quintessential American public icon, the Statue of Liberty, was conceived, designed, and fabricated in France...", the difference is that the French statue was a gift to the United States, not a statue commissioned by the United States for a French company to make as our national symbol.

I personally believe that no statue is necessary, and that we've gotten too "need to recognize... and be 'correct' about it" over the years, and believe that the World War II and Roosevelt memorials were not necessary (at least not that we have to show Mr. Roosevelt with his "handicap" for the public to understand him better - by that position, why not also include his "mistress" as part of the sculpture).Considering the previous Chinese views toward Dr. King, and. But, then I believe that Dr. King day, as a three day shopping weekend' shold be changed to Civil Rights Day, and recognize more contributions than only Dr. King's (in the same manner that almost everyone recognizes the February three day shopping holiday - seeming a mattress and auto sale holiday - as President's Day (when, from a Federal perspective, it's George Washington's Birthday - not Washington/Lincoln, etc).

Somehow, going back to the Statue of Liberty and Vietnam Veteran's Memorial comments, to me, having the statue of Dr. King (which, I agree, is more worthy of what we pulled down in Iraq than it is of recognition of Dr. King's activities) made in China, as a virtually solely Chinese statue, with the Chinese (as a government) standing for all that I've been taught Dr. King would be opposed to, would be akin to having the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial designed and made in Vietnam.

While I don't think the status is necessary, and while I think the Mall is becoming too "memorialized", with everyone feeling that we can't not recognize each and everything in that small venue - heaven forbid there be simply open space - I hope I don't live to see the current statue (as designed by the Chinese) officially "memorialized". Were we memorializing Korea's Kim, Russia's Stalin, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, it might be different; but we're not. And as a member of the public, I prefer to see something different.

Posted by: Dungarees@gmail.com | May 11, 2008 1:59 PM

The idea of China to make the statue was heavilly protested when the plan was conceived... This is not about hindsight at all it was a huge error to not have the African American comunity design and sculpt the statue from the start. Whoever was responsible for choosing China to make the statue to begin with should be held accountable for the bad decision. Martin Luther King would have wanted his memorial to be done by African American, not because of race, but because it proves that they understand the honor bestowed upon them and shows the direct progress on equality that King gave his life for. This is typical of bureaucratic idiocy that occurs every day in political decisions.

Posted by: jack5 | May 11, 2008 2:02 PM

There is plenty of film footage of the late Dr. King. Why not take a representative frame and reproduce that? The current effort reminds me of those elderly stiffs atop Lenin's tomb, during the Soviet era, reviewing a parade of tanks and rocket launchers on May Day.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | May 11, 2008 2:04 PM

Will they have to put a "made in China" label on it?

Posted by: Pat O | May 11, 2008 2:06 PM

"Statues like this regularly get toppled around the world--Iraq being the latest."

Pleeeeeeez
The idea that someone already is talking about toppling a sculpture of Dr. King, shows us how far astray our priorities are. Might I suggest these people look in Raliegh NC at the sculpture of Josephus Daniels for a real cause for statue toppling? He was a genuine racist leader and owner of news media who is honored with a bronze in the center of town without much mention.

Al Qaeda blows up sculpture of Buddhas that they find offensive. Hopefully this won't happen here.
I'd like to think we are a bit more tolerant of art and artists and have better and more constructive things to do.

For example, more sculptures of Dr. King.


Posted by: Art L. | May 11, 2008 2:07 PM

This paragraph says it best:

It is simply wrong to have outsourced both the sculpting and quarrying of the granite -- and especially to China, a country whose government during King's lifetime called him a "reactionary running dog" for his advocacy of nonviolent protest. China even now stands firmly against King's vision of an open, free society in which power flows from below and people are cherished as individuals, not defined by group identity.

What on Earth were the decision-makers thinking? Were they trying to save a few bucks? What a loss to our prestige in America where we cannot even design & build statues to our greatest heroes. I feel angry & ashamed.

Posted by: Stu Wilde | May 11, 2008 2:09 PM

Let us assume that the sculptor holds a sense of reverence for his subjects. He has also done works portraying chairman Mao, one of history's totalitarian abominations who the Chinese police state still reveres. How on earth could any man admire both King and Mao? No sensible American who has the least grasp of history ever could.

Posted by: wtmgeo | May 11, 2008 2:10 PM

The pose certainly looks like the "flip" side on the jacket cover of the Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., and googling MLK, Jr. on Images produces a variety of facial expressions closely resembling that of the statue. I think maybe we all remember the man a little differently now than we did then and even then maybe we weren't really good eye-witnesses. After all, we were living "him" as well as witnessing "him."

Posted by: Roy Stureen | May 11, 2008 2:19 PM

The idea of China to make the statue was heavilly protested when the plan was conceived... This is not about hindsight at all it was a huge error to not have the African American comunity design and sculpt the statue from the start. Whoever was responsible for choosing China to make the statue to begin with should be held accountable for the bad decision. Martin Luther King would have wanted his memorial to be done by African American, not because of race, but because it proves that they understand the honor bestowed upon them and shows the direct progress on equality that King gave his life for. This is typical of bureaucratic idiocy that occurs every day in political decisions.

Posted by: jack5 | May 11, 2008 2:19 PM

I agree with Stu Wilde.
But worse still, the design WAS ALREADY SCULPTED IN ROCKY MOUNT NORTH CAROLINA.

Posted by: Art L. | May 11, 2008 2:22 PM

The very epitome of jingoism - maligning an individual for the actions of his country. This is an individual artist, again, not China, Inc.

A corollary: I would hope that even if people dispise the actions of the government of the United States, they do not hate us all, as individuals, simply because we live in the United States! Also, calls for the artist of the statue of be determined by affirmative action (i.e. the artist MUST be black) are completely contrary to the ideals of MLKjr.

Posted by: rhadams | May 11, 2008 2:29 PM

The sculptor of this statue was exiled to the countryside during Mao's Cultural Revolution.

The calls for the sculpture to be canceled purely on the grounds that no Chinese should be allowed to sculpt a memorial to an American are disgusting; they are the definition of jingoism. I'm sure the sculptor is just thrilled to to find out that American ideas about art are just as narrowminded and political as were those of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.

Posted by: brooksfoe | May 11, 2008 2:52 PM


They made the man look as Chinese as a black man can look for goodness sake! The sculpture really looks nothing like Dr. MLK. Here it is- you decide:

http://www.npr.org/templates/common/image_enlargement.php?imageResId=16918829

I think that people are missing something very important. Dr. King is the quintessential American. He may have followed in the tradition of Gandhi and non violent protest. But his character, attitude, and philosophical and spiritual resolve were genuinely American. His humanism has a different flavor from the traditions of Europe, Asia, or the Muslim world.

The sculpture shows a man looking to stare down his oppressor and draw a line. Dr. King's message was more inviting. He wasn't looking to get run over by a tank in Tiannemen Square but was willing to suffer and persevere to create change. In the end he simply sought others to accept him and the plight of his people by preaching the truth. This sculptor has it all wrong.


Posted by: Gone Wrong | May 11, 2008 2:58 PM


They made the man look as Chinese as a black man can look for goodness sake! The sculpture really looks nothing like Dr. MLK. Here it is- you decide:

http://www.npr.org/templates/common/image_enlargement.php?imageResId=16918829

I think that people are missing something very important. Dr. King is the quintessential American. He may have followed in the tradition of Gandhi and non violent protest. But his character, attitude, and philosophical and spiritual resolve were genuinely American. His humanism has a different flavor from the traditions of Europe, Asia, or the Muslim world.

The sculpture shows a man looking to stare down his oppressor and draw a line. Dr. King's message was more inviting. He wasn't looking to get run over by a tank in Tiannemen Square but was willing to suffer and persevere to create change. In the end he simply sought others to accept him and the plight of his people by preaching the truth. This sculptor has it all wrong.


Posted by: Gone Wrong | May 11, 2008 2:59 PM

the next statue should be of King on his knees with his hands over his face crying at the death of thugs who killed each other.

Posted by: Dwight | May 11, 2008 4:49 PM

Thousand of great sculptors in this country and they had to send htis job to China??
What are they doing?
Dopes

Posted by: hhkeller | May 11, 2008 5:12 PM

Historically, huge differences of opinion and artistic controversy seems to be part of the process of selecting public art in honor of something or someone. It was for Lady Liberty, it was for Maya Lin's elegant Viet Nam Memorial wall, it was for the recent WWII Memorial, and it will be for Dr. King's statue.

Having said that, it is a travesty that a man who fought for freedom and civil rights is being honored by a statue being built by a man who is part of the system who tramples on those rights.

What's with that "look" in King's face in the Lei Yixin statue anyway? And what's with the arms crossed and one hand holding a pen? (is it a pen?) - it's like Lei Yixin took Bob Dole's body and put a King head on it, where MLK is staring at the sun and squinting in discomfort?

Say no to this statue and let's start all over again.


Posted by: Lenny Campello | May 11, 2008 5:22 PM

Have anyone seen or remember that picture of RFK where he's with crossed arms, pensive, looking down? I think it was taken when he was mulling over the "Cuban crisis". Is a very popular picture.

And it's actually beautiful, it expresses so much. Having MLK with crossed arms is no sign of weakness. Folding arms can go with intelligence, meditation, pondering, instead of a warmonger stance.

I like the statue as it is. Enough with the nit picking.

Posted by: thetruth | May 11, 2008 5:39 PM

It could be worse. The Japs could make the statue and it would look like a tar-baby.

Posted by: Hank | May 11, 2008 6:36 PM

"China even now stands firmly against King's vision of an open, free society in which power flows from below and people are cherished as individuals, not defined by group identity."

Good grief. The Chinese government may as a whole but the Chinese people do not. Have you ever been to China? Do you ever talk to Chinese people?

Posted by: Karl | May 11, 2008 6:46 PM

By the way, the comment a couple of posts above refering to "Japs" is an ethnic slur.

Posted by: Karl2 | May 11, 2008 6:49 PM

Karl,

Exactly right. Comrade Fisher is writing as if Mao Zedong himself is carving the statue!

Posted by: rhadams | May 11, 2008 7:07 PM

How about making him look a little more like Eddie Murphy? A much more handsome and charming guy. Or maybe Marion Barry -- with a dollar bill up his nose!!!

Posted by: Jeff Wagner | May 11, 2008 8:53 PM

If the WWII memorial can be designed by a former citizen of the Reich, why not have a Communist do a totalitarian likeness of Dr. King? WHY NOT HAVE A PLAQUE AT THE EXACT LOCATION WHERE THE "I HAVE A DREAM" speech was delivered instead? The capital is being ruined, and the WWII Memorial will keep whatever is put up for Dr. King from being the ugliest and most totalitarian monument in D.C. Thanks, Tom Hanks and Bob Dole!!! PS: Wall-Mart will be selling chinese key chains of Dr. King's chinese created likeness, to be sure

Posted by: Boswell | May 11, 2008 9:07 PM

STOP TRIPPIN'. Of COURSE MLK stood w/folded arms, sometimes -- who doesn't? He was a MAN, not a saint! It's not that serious. Does every statue of a Black man need to fit the "good, smiling Negro" mold? I think NOT.

What, should he be shuffling, shuckin' and jivin'. Get a life, mayne...

Posted by: Ntlekt | May 11, 2008 10:17 PM

STOP TRIPPIN'. Of COURSE MLK stood w/folded arms, sometimes -- who doesn't? He was a MAN, not a saint! It's not that serious. Does every statue of a Black man need to fit the "good, smiling Negro" mold? I think NOT.

What, should he be shuffling, shuckin' and jivin'? Get a life, mayne...

Posted by: Ntlekt | May 11, 2008 10:20 PM

STOP TRIPPIN'. Of COURSE MLK stood w/folded arms, sometimes -- who doesn't? He was a MAN, not a saint! It's not that serious. Does every statue of a Black man need to fit the "good, smiling Negro" mold? I think NOT.

What, should he be shuffling, shuckin' and jivin'? Get a life, mayne...

Posted by: Ntlekt | May 11, 2008 10:20 PM

I'm glad that this stature will be reworked. MLK should be shown as a weak, humble, peaceful man. He should reflect the proud traditions of a people who were quiet and long-suffering but forgiving.

The Chinese sculptor is trying to make MLK into an aggressive, strong, defiant hero. The sculptor is using ideals from a society that was once weak and is now strong. These ideals do not apply to African Americans. They are still the kind and loving Americans like MLK wanted them to be.

Posted by: mark liptke | May 12, 2008 2:11 AM

My husband is a PhD, if that interests you. He is very concerned about the horrible influence China has on our country. In fact, he is rather obsessed by it.

Anyway, let me qualify my question and my subsequent comments by the admission that my husband and I are NOT in favor of "globalism." We think that the concept is VERY dangerous to the health and welfare to the citizens of the United States of America.

That being said, we are infuriated by the daily reports of China's shipping of poisonous food and food-related products into the U.S. China has inundated us with poisonous products including pet foods, fruits and juices, vegetables, meat products, seafood, toothpaste, and God knows what else.

Many of our elected officials, who could not care less about our health, permit this travesty in the name of "open-trade" and "globalism."

• So, what can we do to protect ourselves from China's poisonous products?
• What are YOU doing to protect yourself?
• What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Even if a statue is NOT "poisonous" per se, we are still very upset over it. You never know what it might be made of!!

http://www.blogger.com/profile/14357995131662848398

Posted by: MrsDocChuck | May 12, 2008 11:26 AM

My husband is a PhD, if that interests you. He is very concerned about the horrible influence China has on our country. In fact, he is rather obsessed by it.

Anyway, let me qualify my question and my subsequent comments by the admission that my husband and I are NOT in favor of "globalism." We think that the concept is VERY dangerous to the health and welfare to the citizens of the United States of America.

That being said, we are infuriated by the daily reports of China's shipping of poisonous food and food-related products into the U.S. China has inundated us with poisonous products including pet foods, fruits and juices, vegetables, meat products, seafood, toothpaste, and God knows what else.

Many of our elected officials, who could not care less about our health, permit this travesty in the name of "open-trade" and "globalism."

• So, what can we do to protect ourselves from China's poisonous products?
• What are YOU doing to protect yourself?
• What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Even if a statue is NOT "poisonous" per se, we are still very upset over it. You never know what it might be made of!!

http://www.blogger.com/profile/14357995131662848398

Posted by: MrsDocChuck | May 12, 2008 11:27 AM

My husband is a PhD, if that interests you. He is very concerned about the horrible influence China has on our country. In fact, he is rather obsessed by it.

Anyway, let me qualify my question and my subsequent comments by the admission that my husband and I are NOT in favor of "globalism." We think that the concept is VERY dangerous to the health and welfare to the citizens of the United States of America.

That being said, we are infuriated by the daily reports of China's shipping of poisonous food and food-related products into the U.S. China has inundated us with poisonous products including pet foods, fruits and juices, vegetables, meat products, seafood, toothpaste, and God knows what else.

Many of our elected officials, who could not care less about our health, permit this travesty in the name of "open-trade" and "globalism."

• So, what can we do to protect ourselves from China's poisonous products?
• What are YOU doing to protect yourself?
• What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Even if a statue is NOT "poisonous" per se, we are still very upset over it. You never know what it might be made of!!


My husband is a PhD, if that interests you. He is very concerned about the horrible influence China has on our country. In fact, he is rather obsessed by it.

Anyway, let me qualify my question and my subsequent comments by the admission that my husband and I are NOT in favor of "globalism." We think that the concept is VERY dangerous to the health and welfare to the citizens of the United States of America.

That being said, we are infuriated by the daily reports of China's shipping of poisonous food and food-related products into the U.S. China has inundated us with poisonous products including pet foods, fruits and juices, vegetables, meat products, seafood, toothpaste, and God knows what else.

Many of our elected officials, who could not care less about our health, permit this travesty in the name of "open-trade" and "globalism."

• So, what can we do to protect ourselves from China's poisonous products?
• What are YOU doing to protect yourself?
• What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Even if a statue is NOT "poisonous" per se, we are still very upset over it. You never know what it might be made of!!

http://www.blogger.com/profile/14357995131662848398

Posted by: MrsDocChuck | May 12, 2008 11:28 AM

My husband is a PhD, if that interests you. He is very concerned about the horrible influence China has on our country. In fact, he is rather obsessed by it.

Anyway, let me qualify my question and my subsequent comments by the admission that my husband and I are NOT in favor of "globalism." We think that the concept is VERY dangerous to the health and welfare to the citizens of the United States of America.

That being said, we are infuriated by the daily reports of China's shipping of poisonous food and food-related products into the U.S. China has inundated us with poisonous products including pet foods, fruits and juices, vegetables, meat products, seafood, toothpaste, and God knows what else.

Many of our elected officials, who could not care less about our health, permit this travesty in the name of "open-trade" and "globalism."

• So, what can we do to protect ourselves from China's poisonous products?
• What are YOU doing to protect yourself?
• What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Even if a statue is NOT "poisonous" per se, we are still very upset over it. You never know what it might be made of!!

http://www.blogger.com/profile/14357995131662848398

Posted by: MrsDocChuck | May 12, 2008 11:29 AM

My husband is a PhD, if that interests you. He is very concerned about the horrible influence China has on our country. In fact, he is rather obsessed by it.

Anyway, let me qualify my question and my subsequent comments by the admission that my husband and I are NOT in favor of "globalism." We think that the concept is VERY dangerous to the health and welfare to the citizens of the United States of America.

That being said, we are infuriated by the daily reports of China's shipping of poisonous food and food-related products into the U.S. China has inundated us with poisonous products including pet foods, fruits and juices, vegetables, meat products, seafood, toothpaste, and God knows what else.

Many of our elected officials, who could not care less about our health, permit this travesty in the name of "open-trade" and "globalism."

• So, what can we do to protect ourselves from China's poisonous products?
• What are YOU doing to protect yourself?
• What suggestions do you have for the rest of us?

Even if a statue is NOT "poisonous" per se, we are still very upset over it. You never know what it might be made of!!

http://www.blogger.com/profile/14357995131662848398

Posted by: MrsDocChuck | May 12, 2008 11:32 AM

Well, Marc should be pleased at the latest earthquake news from China.

Posted by: Bill | May 12, 2008 12:10 PM

martin luther king jar haed is my dad he makes me very very very very very happy in a very very evry very very bad way

Posted by: sarah | May 12, 2008 12:50 PM

his head makes me horny

Posted by: destiny | May 12, 2008 12:52 PM

Why must this story be sensationalized? The simple fact is that the MLK Memorial Foundation got approval for one design but is working on another. The Foundation spurned best practices last year when they initially chose a design and sculptor, and continued to ignore professional practice by failing to get Commission approval for major design changes. They have now been caught.

The rules for public art may be specialized, but "bait-and-switch" is bad news in any business.

Posted by: Mike Licht | May 12, 2008 3:44 PM

you need pictures of him

Posted by: sam | May 12, 2008 3:55 PM

I see alot of racism in this Fisher's drivel.

We have seen this kind of racism before with Maya Lin's work on the Vietnam memorial (another ethnic Chinese artist).
The racism spew against her was similiar and often worse.


Maya Lin's cretion stood the test of time. It is an awesome peice. Lei Yixin's creation of Dr. King will also stood the test of time.

This kind of racism must stop. Hooray for both Ms.Lin and Mr. Lei.

Posted by: Dr. Amun Roy | May 12, 2008 8:22 PM

Well, Marc, I hope you are happy at the kids dying in China, you racist a * * h o l e.

Posted by: Jimmy | May 13, 2008 2:40 AM

Funny how the same type of comments directed towards Maya Lin are now being directed at this Chinese civilian for creating a work of art. Decades after MLK's time, America's come really far hasn't it?

Posted by: Funny | May 14, 2008 6:44 AM


A statue of a Communist by a noted sculptor of Communists? What could possibly be more appropriate? Why should this upset anyone? Snoop-Doggy-Dogg, Marilyn Manson and Che Guevara are the role models of today's youth. Although, most are only familiar with Che's image on T-Shirts and little else. MLK was an adulterous, philandering, plagiarist. This country has done nothing but degenerate since "Dr." King's "Dream" has become a nightmarish reality. Our children's scholastic achievement levels have gone from being the highest in the world to approaching the lowest of industrialized nations in the last 40 years. More children are born out of wedlock than are conceived by married couples. It is estimated that 1 in 4 teenage girls are infected with a sexually transmittable disease. The result of the "Civil Rights Movement" and the Baby Boomer Generation's "Counter Culture Tantrum" is a demoralized nation that has lost its sense of identity. So, by all means, outsource the job to China, use Chinese materials and let a Communist do the work. The symbolism is perfect. Karl Marx would be proud!

Posted by: Cowtown Rebel | May 15, 2008 2:15 AM

I'm sorry but a ridiculous monumental and yet controversial statue is not what this country needs right now,Espeacialy one that exaggerates the importance of this individual black man.A good-maybe very good man,but still a black man who dose not care enough about any aspect of WHITE Americans.I for one reject thee idea of this being built in China.This is a no-win project for all Americans,Especialy White Americans who could care less of a racially-charged image of ML.King-Jr who really did not deserve a national holiday in the first place.A remembrance ceremony yes,but not a national holiday all across America...NO!!

Posted by: Kevin | May 17, 2008 8:59 PM

The statue is ridiculously big.
They made Big Boy giant in order to sell hamburgers.
I'm not impressed by that.

But less impressive still is that the design already exists and was executed by an American sculptor from Chicago.

Check out his web site:
http://www.figurativeartstudio.com

Posted by: Art L. | May 18, 2008 1:09 PM

Let me start by saying, I'm black. Then let me say, this. Just like most people (white & black) can't detect the subtle differences between asians, how do you expect an chinese sculptor who probably doesn't have much interaction with black people to detect subtle facial expressions? That is why he looks stern and angry. Chinese expressions tend to be far more subtle. So what might have been a furrowed worry line or contemplative expression, turns into a forbidding frown. I hate to say this but I believe the right thing to do is pay off the artist and start over. I can't believe that with the hundreds of sculptors of renown in the US, we had to outsource to China. Why? Was it cheaper?

Posted by: Luke | May 20, 2008 12:30 PM

That last comment about chinese artists being unable to capture subtle likeness was particularly racist against Chinese people and shows a particularly naive point of view with regard to artistic depictions.
Good artists can depict anyone with love and effort. Of any race.

There is no guarantee that another artist would do a better job just because they are American. (Or black.)

Perhaps they would do a much worse job.
Consider that.

Seriously, that is stupid talk to think that way.

Posted by: Art L. | May 21, 2008 10:00 PM

This obviously talented Chinese sculptor is perfectly capable of making this very large reproduction of an already existing design for a sculpture. The original idea and realization for the sculpture can be seen in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Or visit the web site of this American sculptor:
http://www.figurativeartstudio.com

He's more original.

Posted by: Art L. | May 25, 2008 5:25 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company