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Commission wants MLK statue redone

May 10, 2008|From the Washington Post

A powerful federal arts commission is urging that the sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. proposed for a memorial on the Tidal Basin be reworked because it is too "confrontational" and reminiscent of political art in totalitarian states.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts thinks "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," commission secretary Thomas Luebke said in a letter in April.

By law, no project like the memorial can go forward without approval from the commission, the federal agency that advises the government on public design and aesthetics in the capital.

A model of the statue has been built in China. The project's chief architect, Ed Jackson Jr., huddled with advisors this week in Ann Arbor, Mich., to discuss ways to address the commission's objections before sculpting of the granite statue begins.

It is the second time in recent months that the memorial to the slain civil rights leader has come under fire. Last year critics complained after a Chinese sculptor known for his monumental works of figures such as Mao Tse-tung was selected to create King and other elements of the memorial in China.

The $100-million memorial, which is being built largely with private donations by the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, is planned for a four-acre site among Washington's famed cherry trees on the northwest shore of the basin.

Construction is expected to start this year and end next year.

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