May 2007

Selection of Chinese sculptor to create Martin Luther King memorial angers black artists

More than 4,000 people have signed a petition to appoint an African American architect and artist for the monument

Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin's depiction of Martin Luther King

The appointment of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, known for his portraits of Chairman Mao, to create the monumental portrait sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr for a memorial to the Civil Rights leader on the National Mall in Washington, DC has angered some black artists. Gilbert Young, a painter based in Atlanta, has launched a petition to appoint an African American architect and artist for the memorial on his website, Young argues that because of the memorial’s national importance “it should have been given to an African-American artist” and when he heard of Master Lei’s appointment “it was like two slaps in the face”. He says 4,000 people have signed his petition and 20 other artists have joined his protest. Dr Ed Jackson, Jr, head of the memorial project, says the design committee, composed of artists, architects, lawyers, and museum curators, chose Master Lei after seeing his work at the Stone Carver’s Symposium in St Paul, Minnesota, where “most of the stone carvers recommended that the committee speak to Lei Yixin”. He says the only complaints have come from friends of Young.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 180 May 2007