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The controversial new MLK memorial: Too white?
A monument to the civil rights leader on the National Mall is sparking outrage over some of the Chinese sculptor's artistic decisions
Visitors may have been impressed by the National Mall's new MLK memorial on Monday, but critics argue that it's too small and too white.
Visitors may have been impressed by the National Mall's new MLK memorial on Monday, but critics argue that it's too small and too white.
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ager visitors flocked to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Monday to catch the first glimpse of the recently-erected, 29-foot-tall memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (See the image at right and below.) The monument will be officially dedicated by President Obama on Sunday, the 48th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The $120 million memorial is the first on the Mall that does not honor a president or fallen soldiers, and the momentous occasion is sparking controversy. Critics are not pleased that the statue was sculpted by a Chinese artist, Lei Yixin, and that it was crafted using Chinese granite. They claim that the finished product is also too white, too small, and fails to properly honor the civil rights leader. Are they right?

The memorial is "strange and weak": Apparently Martin Luther King, Jr. was white, says Blake Gopnik at The Daily Beast. Or at least, that's what you might think looking at this granite memorial that gives King "pale, freckled skin." And that's only one of the problems with the sculpture — it's also too small. "At 29 feet tall, it is dwarfed by most decent-sized trees." With so many questionable artistic decisions, "it is impossible to imagine this memorial finding a place in future histories of art."
"Martin Luther King was white?"

And fails to capture King's legacy: What was intended as a moving monument more closely resembles "Han Solo frozen in carbonite from the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back," says Courtland Milloy at The Washington Post. Beyond that, the expression on his face appears "a tad pouty," disappointed, angry, and even confrontational. "I'd prefer he wore a look of contentment, satisfied knowing that he gave his all" — like the "standard look of immortality" on the sculptures of Jefferson and Lincoln.
"King memorial: One expression, many interpretations"

Give it time: "Artists and funding organizations are never going to please everyone," says Robert Hood at MSNBC. The Vietnam Memorial was branded a "black gash of shame" when it was first unveiled, but has since become a national shrine. With King's own son publicly praising his father's memorial, there's hope that one day it too will become a universally beloved national treasure.
"MLK Memorial unveiled in Washington, D.C."

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