Newly-unveiled bronze statue honoring MLK Jr receives mixed reviews

New $10 million sculpture honoring MLK Jr that shows headless bronze arms embracing receives mixed reviews as it’s unveiled in Boston

  • The $10 million bronze sculpture honors MLK and his wife Coretta Scott King
  • It was unveiled on Friday in the Boston Common but was met with mixed reviews 
  • The sculpture consisting of four intertwined arms was inspired by a photo of the Kings embracing when MLK learned he had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
  • Several questioned why the piece was of the couple’s arms and not their heads 
  • The piece ‘The Embrace,’ is the largest memorial dedicated to racial equity 

A bronze sculpture honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King was unveiled in Boston on Friday to mixed reviews.

The 20-foot-high piece ‘The Embrace’ depicts the famous hug between the two civil rights leaders after MLK Jr. learned he had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

But the $10 million artwork shows two disembodied sets of arms, with no heads, sparking confusion among many art fans, and followers of the civil rights icon.  

Some King family members were among the large crowd that turned out for a ceremony at the Freedom Plaza of the Boston Common where the piece was shown off for the first time – featuring only the couple’s interlocking arms. 

Several people online questioned the artist’s decision not to include the couple’s heads. 

But others were moved by the piece, which pays tribute to the iconic couple who fell in love in Boston, and then went on to make a difference in the world.  

A bronze sculpture honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King that depicts the famous hug between the couple, was unveiled in Boston Friday, but is receiving mixed reviews

The 20-foot-high piece ‘The Embrace’ depicts the famous hug between the two civil rights leaders after MLK Jr. learned he had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964

The sculpture is one of the country’s largest memorials dedicated to racial equity, a privately-funded King Boston organization said last year. 

It was designed by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group and was selected out of 126 proposals and installed on the Boston Common not far from where King led a rally and march in 1965.

When photos and video of the sculpture debuted online, some Twitter users were confused by the art. 

One Twitter user called it a ‘horrible sculpture’ while another tweeted that it did not translate well. 

‘This is awful,’ the British rapper Zuby added. 

One user shared an image of the piece that showed it at a better angle. 

‘It’s unfortunate that our first sighting after the unveiling is the worst possible angle,’ the user wrote. ‘Here’s what we should have seen.’

Another user slammed the sculpture for not honoring the original photo. 

‘The original photo this inspired was beautiful and perfect. Why not just honor that with a replica instead of this horrible odd weirdly sexualized bronze blob… #mlksculpture #MLK.’

Another wrote: ‘Finally some feel good news. Beautiful sculpture. Thanks for sharing!’

The sculpture was unveiled as part of annual tributes and commemorations of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which began nationwide Friday.

People stand near the 20-foot-high bronze sculpture ‘The Embrace,’ a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, in the Boston Common

One Twitter user slammed the sculpture for not honoring the original photo 

Boston residents gathered to witness the unveiling of the sculpture which cost $9.5 million

One user said it was the angle that some were seeing, not the statue in its entirety, that made it appear strange. ‘It’s unfortunate that our first sighting after the unveiling is the worst possible angle,’ the user wrote. ‘Here’s what we should have seen’

The massive monument consisting of four intertwined arms was dedicated Friday in Boston, where the leader first met his wife. 

The civil rights leader and his wife first met in Boston in the early 1950s, when he was a doctoral student in theology at Boston University and she was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music.

‘They both loved this city because of its proud heritage as a hotbed of the abolitionist movement and its unique intellectual and educational resources,’ their son, Martin Luther King III, said during the dedication. 

‘And indeed, Boston became a place where they forged a partnership that would change America and make a powerful contribution to the Black freedom struggle. That’s what I see in this beautiful monument.’

‘They both loved this city because of its proud heritage as a hotbed of the abolitionist movement and its unique intellectual and educational resources,’ their son, Martin Luther King III, said during the dedication. 

‘And indeed, Boston became a place where they forged a partnership that would change America and make a powerful contribution to the Black freedom struggle. That’s what I see in this beautiful monument.’

Yolanda Renee King, who never met her grandparents, said she and everyone else are challenged to ‘carry forward’ the couple’s ‘unfinished work.’

‘This is the spirt we must keep as we commemorate (the King holiday),’ the 14-year-old said, as those in attendance cheered. ‘Let’s make it a great day of community service; a day of brotherhood, a day of sisterhood; a day of using your platform for good; a day of love and healing in the spirt of this wonderful monument.’

It was designed by Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group and was selected out of 126 proposals and installed on the Boston Common not far from where King led a rally in 1965

Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director of EmbraceBoston, the organization behind the memorial, noted the significance of the sculpture’s placement at the Boston Common, America’s oldest public park and a high traffic area with millions of city residents and visitors walking its paths every year.

‘I think Boston has this reputation of being this city of heroes and abolitionists, like W.E.B. Du Bois and Frederick Douglass, simultaneously with this reputation of not being friendly and in some cases being described as racist. So there’s this tension between these two images of Boston. Having the memorial there is part of our intention to transform our city’s perspective.’

The organization is also raising money to build an economic justice center in the city’s historically Black neighborhood where MLK preached.

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