anyone else not happy with how the MLK monument looks?

my fault.

i respect the man and his achievements greatly, but this statue seems a bit off ...

it reminds me of North Korean statues and kim jong il..  gives me an uneasy feeling looking at it. 



Aug 31, 11 11:36 pm

each generation gets monuments appropriate to its time?? so ours is well-intentioned, compromised, (de)value-engineered, and honors an idealized past instead of a possible future. 

Sep 1, 11 6:59 am

I thought it looked like he was frozen in carbonite.  Isn't that what they were going for?

Sep 1, 11 9:24 am

his expression and stance are intense.

Sep 1, 11 9:33 am
go do it

has anyone heard what the family thinks of it?

Sep 1, 11 9:43 am

still can't beat the original..


Sep 1, 11 9:43 am

Was the memorial won through a competition?  MLK deserved a better memorial than the one built.  It defidently feels neo-classical, such a revolutionary person should have a revolutionary memorial. 

Sep 1, 11 11:06 am

The new memorial for Martin Luther King on the National Mall in Washington includes a lot of quotes from the civil rights leader. But on the north side of the memorial, there is a paraphrased quote that's causing a stir.

"I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness," the inscription reads.

The poet and author and one of the memorial's consultants, Maya Angelou, told The Washington Post, yesterday, the quote makes King seem arrogant. Actually, she put it in harsher terms.

"The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit," she said.

"He was anything but that," she added. "He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply. He had no arrogance at all. He had a humility that comes from deep inside. The 'if' clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely." - All Things Considered

Sep 1, 11 12:57 pm

I'm glad there's a place where people can go to memorialize MLK.  That being said, the memorial itself is a bombastic pile of Chinese granite that looks like something out of a Communist Memorial Pattern Book, set amid a landscape that is a badly watered down version of the original concept.  (It's watered down mostly because they removed all the water features due to cost constraints) 

The executive planning board was also more than a little tone deaf; from the Chinese sculptor and granite to the newest kerfuffle regarding a truncated quote, the memorial board exhibited a lack of political savvy, coupled with poor decision making.  If they realized the political implications of their decisions before they made their choices, a lot of these controversies over the memorial wouldn't exist.

Sep 1, 11 1:07 pm
my fault.

it looks more MALCOLM X than MLK.


Sep 1, 11 1:42 pm

Does anyone else see the amazing irony in this?

All of the other white guys on the National Mall all have buildings, enterable habitable spaces, that house their memories. Where as MLK is cast aside, outside in the elements, left to fend for his own without the comfort of a white-stone time machine to eternally preserve his image.

Which mirrors society perfectly at this moment considering the growing number of homeless, the increasing cost of housing and how housing prices disproportionately affect Blacks, Hispanics and the poor.

I guess, judging by our own National Mall, rich white men get roofs whereas black men sleep in the park.

Sep 1, 11 1:56 pm

I am happy this memorial is there. Now the black citizens and other under represented people of this nation have a rock solid presence and voice in American history and current times. People will take their children there and this will teach them who Dr. Martin Luther King was and tell them never to feel inferior to the society who treats them as such. The size of the sculpture and its location definitely gives a lot of strength and importance to it and will be the center piece where any unfairly treated citizen can take their complaints and voice their protests, and celebrate their triumphs. I am a non black  immigrant and I identify with Dr. King as well. I am glad the carved rock contains the illustrative representation of his face and body of a black man, representing the hopes and reality of under represented, instead of some geometric abstract invention artistically educated people would like.

Sep 1, 11 3:02 pm
Sarah Hamilton

James, I never thought about it that way.  Wow.

I will refrain from judging the piece until I can actually see it in person.  I do find it ironic that it's watered down by removing the water features.

Sep 1, 11 3:26 pm

James, Bingo. Also tagalong for the Carbonite, my second thought. The first was the unfortunate resemblance to Michaelangelo's Prisioners ...

Sep 1, 11 3:56 pm

I think it's great this monument exists - I also think the idea was interesting, but the execution was timid.  why doesn't he have any feet?  it's like he's being swallowed up by the stone.  every time you see him in photos he's either standing or walking with people - not sinking in quicksand.  he's been cut off at the knees - weakened. diminished.

Sep 1, 11 3:58 pm

I disagree with the view that MLK does not get a house or temple as Lincoln or Jefferson because he is a minority. FDR has a landscape memorial as well. Theodore Roosevelt is just off the mall in the Potomac is also a landscape memorial. i just think that is the impact Maya lin has had on the idea of a memorial! i won't even mention George Mason's memorial that is just a sculpture.


Sep 1, 11 4:27 pm

Good gad, can't anyone here reference farther back than Star Wars?   The inspiration is obviously Michelangelo's amazing unfinished "slaves" in Florence:

(not saying the MLK statue is on par with Michelangelo, however)


Sep 1, 11 6:11 pm

but looking at the artist in the picture, I could be wrong.

Sep 1, 11 6:14 pm

also just noticed that Jaffe already mentioned those.

Sep 1, 11 6:15 pm

My question would be: why couldn't a good US sculptor have been commissioned for this?

Sep 1, 11 6:16 pm

JJ - i think another explanation is the amount of money given to funding memorials... there simply isn't enough money to build these stone palaces... look at the korean war memorial. i think your correlation of monument directly to housing is weak at best... do YOU see the irony how the white guys houses don't have doors or windows! that and the simple lack of stone masons, knowledge of stone cutting etc.

i could also accept that Maya Lin's memorial entirely shifted the idea of monument design.

now..actually changing his words and paraphrasing?  that's weak.

Sep 1, 11 6:31 pm

another question: is it ironic that Chinese stone, some possible funding, and a Chinese sculptor were all used to create a monument for a person who was against oppression, fought for civil rights and was killed defending those rights?

Sep 1, 11 6:38 pm

I don't think it is a matter of artist's ethnic background. Dr. King was a humanist and now his legacy belongs to entire humankind. Should art be nationalistic endeavor?

What is disappointing to me is that in this website of, there is no mention of the sculptor, his name, his work etc.. What the fuck?

Sep 1, 11 6:43 pm


it's not the sculptor so much as the fact that they got the stone there...I kind of feel like China represents all that MLK was against...but I could be wrong.

it is disappointing that the artist isn't mentioned on that happens all too often to artists and architects alike.

Sep 1, 11 6:51 pm

Stone belongs to earth.

Sep 1, 11 7:11 pm

I don't like that the pieces are still embedded in stone - half exposed.  This works in situations such as Petra, where the edifice is actually carved into a stone landscape - but here it just looks a little too contrived.

Sep 1, 11 7:27 pm

I'm kind of the opposite of lars, I don't have that much issue with where the stone came from, but I do think that a talented and deserving African American sculptor should have been commissioned to do this (and any other artist or artisan that would fit the bill for this).  King did more than almost anyone to advance the status and living conditions of blacks in this country, so why couldn't this memorial, in its design and implementation,  have advanced the status and financial well being of black artists and artisans...wouldn't that have been more fitting?

Sep 1, 11 7:28 pm

True that, lecory.  Michelangelo's pieces are like that because he never finished them, not to make them look like fake unfinished statues.  They are powerful works because the figures really do look like they are struggling to break out of the marble blocks.

Sep 1, 11 7:31 pm

eric chavkin made a post over at Animal Architecture thread but i think he meant to do it on this one.

About link between Michelangelo's Prisoner's series and MLk monument....

Sep 2, 11 8:46 am

At first glance, I thought of Mt. Rushmore.  I'm not a fan of his stance.  In body language terms arms crossed over the chest indicate a person closed to the outside or one that is anxious.  He was neither of those.

Sep 2, 11 11:29 am

Orhan - Name of the sculptor was indicated in the History of the Memorial section.

"The Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation announced today the selected quotations from Dr. King’s writing, sermons and speeches that will be permanently engraved into memorial walls. In addition, the Memorial Foundation announced Master Lei Yixin as the Sculptor of Record who will carve the image of Dr. King into the ‘Stone of Hope’, the centerpiece of the Memorial."

Sep 2, 11 11:38 am

while I like the rock/legs connection, and I think the face carving is amazing, I dislike the position of his arms.  It seems really defensive.

Sep 2, 11 12:00 pm

I agree that MLK deserves a monument, and that it belongs on the Mall. But this looks so banal. He looks angry and hostile, and how about the fact that they carved it out of white stone? Not to be racial, and I'm not implying that they should have made it out of basalt or anything, but they made him look white, and thats just wierd. And whats with the huge projection in the back? Is there a purpose to that?

Sep 2, 11 2:42 pm

the sculpture totally does not look like a white dude.  it looks like martin luther king.

the whole thing is fantastic, a monument to a great man in a nation that continues to struggle with race issues.  it's very existence is inspiring (seriously).


as artwork however it is rather horrible. the unfortunate style is absolutely like the cubist sculptures of communist parties everywhere.  kim jong il was the first thing that crossed my mind as well.  i guess the thing is to hope the symbolism changes now this is up. 

on the other hand since america is turning into the papers-please nation and otherwise trying to control what people think through laws all over the blood country it is not entirely inappropriate that MLK looks a bit like he is the head of some kind of thought-police special forces.   "I have a dream.  i have a dream that you will all think as i say and do as i tell you.  i have a dream..."

Sep 2, 11 6:12 pm

btw, since the sculpture competition was closed envelope, nobody knew the winner was a chinese artist until the end.

i like the defensive and confrontational arm position. wouldn't anybody be defensive after what the african americans had to put up with? dr. king was a fighter, not some kind of consensus making political centerist. he had to speak up and fight for people who were subjected to barbaric treatment for centuries and legalized humiliation on daily basis.. because.., color of their skin.

yes.. i like the confrontational posture, it is extremely appropriate.  


Sep 3, 11 1:23 am

@J. James R. I don't think the race criticism is valid here, there is in fact an "enterable, habitable space" it's just an open-air, park-like space which is more a trend of current  memorial planning than are classical temple spaces. See especially the FDR memorial (but also WWII, Korean, Vietnam) which also emphasizes a parklike itinerary with heavy use of inscriptions to construct a literal narrative. This is not just a symbolic shift (yes Maya Lin changed how memorials are made, especially in DC), but practically this kind of scripted space also makes it easier to accomodate visitors (less milling around, fewer bottlenecks) and get them to walk past the gift shop.

Besides which, the National Museum of African-American History has a roof.

I do think the socialist realism is unfortunate.

Another e merging-out-of-stone connection no one has mentioned: Crazy Horse memorial

Sep 12, 11 9:14 am

but the intent of the crazy horse memorial is to be more of a statue and less set into the  if anything this is sort of more like Mt Rushmore.

Sep 12, 11 10:46 am

Poor - and extremely literal design (yes, I agree with 18x32 that this is socialist realism at its most bombastic) - seems to be a theme among recent WDC monuments.  If Maya Lin's Vietnam memorial was a high point, it's been downhill ever since.  

On the other hand, I think the 9/11 WTC memorial in NY turned out better than I thought it would...

Sep 12, 11 12:24 pm

Wow, architects are still overanalytical headcases that can't see beyond the width of their shoulders or "education".  I'm saddened to be in such a profession where everyone feels obligated to stand on a soap box and preach at other members of society like they know what is right for everyone.  You can't keep blaming Frank Lloyd Wright and others in the past for having "God-syndrome" if you keep acting that way yourself.  Paul McCartney was right, just let it be. 

The point of the entire exercise is to remind current and future generations to read about and actually LEARN from what MLK and others did to change society during the Civil Rights Movement and the 300+ years of progressive struggle for freedom and equality.  Keep in mind also that people from other countries visit Washiington DC who have never heard of Martin Luther King Jr., and will now have a greater opportunity and inspiration to learn of his great work.     

Also remember that critics never designed or built a damn thing, and if you enjoy criticizing artwork so intensely, question whether you are just a sheep blindly following every word of bullshit your professors threw at you.

Sep 12, 11 12:59 pm

The MLK Monument isn't educational and it isn't really a memorial. It is just a large statue with a truncated quote on the back. This is perfect for an illiterate society that is not supposed to think about what King accomplished - especially when that kind of accomplishment is a threat.

“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.” -- Martin Luther King

“I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” -- quote carved into the statue.


Sep 12, 11 1:36 pm

Also remember that critics never designed or built a damn thing, and if you enjoy criticizing artwork so intensely, question whether you are just a sheep blindly following every word of bullshit your professors threw at you.

critics don't have to be designers, builders, or artists in order to offer (constructive) criticism regarding design

Sep 12, 11 2:01 pm

It is stretchy to compare the MLK to those sculptures in the communist country.  If there is any similarity, it is because they are all great pieces of art work.

A great sculptor is not a great sculptor because he is a communist or a Chinese?  Judging an artist by his supposed political or social background instead of his talents, I hope Dr. King is not turning in his grave now.

Sep 15, 11 12:34 pm

I will upload two photos. ONE is the ACTUAL photo the artist used to make this statue and the other of Dr. King, the Statue and Chairman Moa.
(actual photo used to create the statue–does it look like Dr King?)
(above is a photo of King, the statue, and Chairman Moa) Does this looks like they overlaid Kings facemask over a Moa statue or am I wrong? The face is not REALLY Dr. Kings.

Notice the eyes are DEFINITELY narrower, the forehead is broader and squarer, the upper lip is larger, the coat is classic Stalin/Moa military uniform.

Communist cubist art always has the man standing tall in uniforms that “blouse out’ at the bottom with large pocket flaps. Dr. King didn’t wear this kind of suit. BUT all of Moa’s statues and Stalin’s statues look exactly like this with the military style coats and stern look. THIS artist did the Moa statue in China, it is the artists preferred style. In the original photo, Dr Kings eyes look up in deep thought but in the statue they look menacingly down and to the side.

This statue not only doesn’t look like Dr.King but doesn’t capture who he was.

Sep 29, 11 3:52 pm
job job

hi Byron404,

The man's name was Mao. Mao Zhedong. Granted it's a transliteration from Chinese characters so any English letters pathetically struggling to come up with a likeness would suffice.

But his name and legacy have been so widely spread that it only looks like laziness to spell it as Moa. And the King statue doesn't look like Mao AT ALL. Perhaps you would approve of some Archimboldo technique. I just don't know.

Sep 30, 11 5:10 pm

Mr. Job Job,

I was an art major if this even matters.  I do believe the statue is done in the classic "Russian avant-garde quasi-Cubist-style."

THE real question is not whether it Looks like Chairman Mao but whether it looks like Dr. King?

I don't believe it looks at all like Dr. King.  You have to strain to recognize him.  In this statue his brow has large bossing that Dr. King didn't have. The forehead and top of the skull are very square--Dr. King had a rounded forehead.  The upper lip if definitely larger. The lower jaw is much broader.  They eyes when matched against the picture it was supposed to be a replica of are MUCH narrower (actually narrower than in any of Dr. Kings photos).

If is not a statue of Chairman Mao then it does contain more of his characteristics than it does Dr. King: Square, wide jaw, square forehead, narrow eyes (eyes are almost replica of Mao's statues in China). I do believe the original/first model the artist submitted was rejected by committee because it was CLEARLY Chinese.  This was the artists second attempt.

I ,personally, would have like to see Dr. King done in a large bronze statue that would have been darker (like his own skin color that some complain about).  He had MANY beautiful poses in many pictures that could have been duplicated in bronze.  They could have done a 18-19 ft bronze and put it in a large stone rotunda/building similar to the Thomas Jefferson memorial.  This would let the memorial stay in keeping with the capital's Neo-Classical/anglo palladian architecture throughout the city.

The monument could have been something beautiful instead of something just colossal.

Oct 3, 11 10:23 am
job job

I wasn't talking to you Karenda, but your personal opinions are as valid as mine (bronze within a tempietto - why not). My views on this aligns with Orhan. 

I'm addressing this explicit denial that an artist from one ethnicity and region should work in another. More specifically - that a Chinese artist is not capable of rendering justice to an American memorial. And your very misguided point suggesting that the artist is culturally incapable of sculpting anything but Asian features.


Oct 3, 11 4:42 pm

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