Martin Luther King Sculptor Admires D.C. Air Quality

Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin has returned to Washington to remove a controversial inscription from his memorial to Martin Luther King. Lei remarked that the monument has not been stained by air pollution since its unveiling two years ago, in apparent contrast with his public work in China.

“We’re very appreciative of Master Lei working with us, and his willingness to come over from China,” [superintendent of National Mall and Memorial Parks, Bob] Vogel said. “It’s never easy to work through all the paperwork process to get someone over here. There’ve been some delays because of that. We’re very pleased with him being here.”

[…] The work is being done on scaffolding and behind fabric shrouds to prevent debris from blowing around. It is “difficult, but it’s still in his skill range,” Lei’s son, Ke Shi, said, translating for his father.

Lei added that he thought the memorial was still beautiful and fits well with the landscape of Washington. “Washington, D.C., has a pretty good environment,” Shi quoted his father as saying. “The sculpture’s not dirty at all.”

“He’s very satisfied,” Shi said. [Source]

Controversy has swirled around the project before, not least over the selection of a man whose past work included statues of Mao Zedong as lead sculptor. Even one of its defenders, The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Page, wrote that the memorial echoed these works with “a worker’s-paradise seriousness“: The Economist’s Democracy in America blog less charitably derided Lei as “a political bullshit artist … a master of achieving a certain cheap effect, a vacuous sublimity easily mistaken for awed reverence, by means of a formulaic, emotionally rote approach to monumentality.”


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