More than 25 years in the making, the granite memorial features a 30-foot-tall statue of King on a landscaped parcel on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin, just southwest of the World War II Memorial.
Sculptor Lei Yixin, who attended the opening with his son, who acted as his translator, declared himself satisfied.
“This is my most important project. Not hardest, most important,” he said in Mandarin. He added that he hopes visitors notice first the expression on Dr. King’s face, “looking forward,” and then his hands.
Congress approved the project 14 years ago. In 2007, the foundation was criticized for choosing the Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin instead of an American artist. The next year, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which reviews plans for monuments and memorials, complained that the “colossal scale and Social Realist style” of the King sculpture “recalls a genre of political sculpture that has recently been pulled down in other countries.”
The Chinese crew who installed the monument work for a sculpting company in Hunan province and have no idea what they will be paid for their work on the King memorial. They expect to be paid when they get home.
The translator asked: Why did the workers agree to not being paid until they return to China?
Because they are working for “national honor,” the man said. “To bring glory to the Chinese people.” He said the workers felt patriotic pride in having been chosen to work on the King project. He said they knew that there were Americans who wanted their jobs, didn’t get them and were mad that the Chinese did.
Washington’s $120 Million Martin Luther King Memorial Unveiled Today – MADE IN CHINA!!!