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.