The NY Times Check In On the MLK/Yixin Debate


You might recall a couple of weeks back when we were reporting on the uproar surrounding the selection of Lei Yixin to create the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in DC. Now the NY Times has put together a full feature on the story, adding fuel to the fire when it was learned that the sculptor has also made statues of Mao Zedong in his native China. It’s a great well-rounded look, from all sides of an argument that we, just working off pure guessing here, figure won’t end positively for Yixin, just as it hasn’t for a lot of the planning since King’s passing. Here’s some:

Public discussions have tried to fit this flare-up into a larger history. For the first time, said Cheryl Finley, an assistant professor of art history who teaches African-American art at Cornell University, “you are carving out a space for black history and a black man in the national context. That’s why there is this focus on who the artist should be.”

Paul Williams, who specializes in museum studies, said: “Memorials are explicitly about symbolism. A sculpture of one particular person is a very literal, realist version coming back to life, and the idea of who is making the person come back to life is very important.”