US officials have asked a Chinese sculptor to rework a statue of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr that will stand on the National Mall in Washington to make it look less like Lenin.
“The sculpture has departed somewhat from what was depicted in the concept design and the Commission of Fine Arts [CFA] has raised some concerns,” Thomas Luebke, secretary of the CFA, said. “The specific advice is that we would like to see the sculpture recapture some of the character in the original design.”
The original design, approved in 2006, showed a “dynamic, meditative” King who appeared to be emerging from the “Stone of Hope,” part of the memorial which is expected to be finished in about five years, Luebke said in a letter last month in which he aired the commission’s concerns about the statue.
“The development as shown now features a stiffly frontal image, static in pose, confrontational in character and appearing as if it had been affixed to the surface of the ‘Stone of Hope,’” the letter said.
In its letter the commission suggested that the inspiration for the King statue, which is being crafted by Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin (雷宜鋅), come from “Michelangelo or Rodin” — not the likes of Soviet realist sculptors.
“Commission members found that 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,” it said, urging that the sculpture be reworked.
Most of the iconic Soviet realist statues of Lenin, Stalin and other prominent figures in the USSR that once figured in town squares throughout the European communist bloc were torn down when the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991. The King memorial requires the approval of the CFA, the National Capital Planning Commission and the secretary of the interior to go ahead.
“When it’s a work of such prominence and importance in our national history, we want to make sure this is the very best quality monument it could possibly be,” Luebke said.