'Weak' Memorial Makes MLK White

But maybe memorials shouldn't be artistic, Blake Gopnik writes
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2011 10:43 AM CDT
'Weak' Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Makes MLK White: Blake Gopnik
The statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen unveiled from scaffolding during the soft opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Take a look at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial unveiled today, and one thing is immediately obvious: The famous black activist is white. To be precise, he’s more pinkish and “blush-colored,” carved from stone bearing “a striking resemblance to pale, freckled skin,” writes Blake Gopnik at the Daily Beast. And that’s not the memorial’s only fault: It’s too small, it was carved by a Chinese artist, and as such, “its Communist roots show clearly” in that it “isn’t so much monumental as overbearing and ponderous.”

It’s “a pretty strange and weak work of art,” Gopnik concludes. But it marks the first time “a person of color, an activist, and a peacenik” has been honored on the National Mall—so do its faults really matter? “Who ever said a fine memorial should also be fine art? Even the great Lincoln Memorial was terribly out of it, in purely artistic terms, when it was dedicated in 1922,” Gopnik muses. Perhaps artistic excellence would be a distraction, when what really matters is that the monument “spells out our love and respect if not artfully, then at least with stolid efficiency.” Click for pictures. (Read more Martin Luther King Jr. stories.)

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