New Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King Statue Was Unveiled in Boston to Mixed Reviews

Nearly 60 years ago, on April 23, 1965, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an emotional speech on Boston Common. Recently, the city honored this event and MLK's legacy with the unveiling of a new statue by contemporary artist Hank Willis Thomas. Titled The Embrace, this massive 20-foot-tall abstract sculpture was inspired by the love between King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. However, despite the thought and planning that went into this striking installation, it has received mixed reviews from the public.

Made from bronze, The Embrace depicts the arms of King and his wife holding each other. This pose references the 1964 photograph of the couple after the announcement that MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite the origin of the design, many have expressed their puzzlement over the execution, finding the abstraction hard to understand, or even disturbing. “Ten million dollars were wasted to create a masturbatory metal homage to my legendary family members—one of the all-time greatest American families,” Seneca Scott, first cousin of Coretta Scott King, wrote.

Some noted that by rendering two pairs of arms with no heads, their connection to the MLK family feels undermined. “It doesn't sit well with me that Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King are reduced to body parts—just their arms. Not their faces, their expressions,” she says. “For such a large statue, dismembering MLK and Coretta Scott King is…a choice. A deliberate one.”

Despite the mixed reactions, there are some who defend Thomas' creation. “I think that's a huge representation of bringing people together,” Martin Luther King III says. “I think the artist did a great job. I'm satisfied. Yeah, it didn't have my mom and dad's images, but it represents something that brings people together.” He hopes that in time people will come around to the new statute, pointing out that many other monuments have caused a stir when they were first debuted.

Thomas spent several years working on The Embrace, collaborating with Mass Design Group, Embrace Boston, and The Boston Foundation. “When we recognize that all storytelling is an abstraction, all representation is an abstraction,” the artist explains on his website, “hopefully, it allows us to be open to more dynamic and complex forms of representation that don't stick us to the narrative that oversimplifies a person or their legacy, and I think this work really tries to get to the heart of that.”

Boston unveiled a massive 20-foot-tall statue designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas, which honors the love between Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.


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Titled The Embrace, this statue is inspired by the 1964 photograph of the Kings, which was taken after it was announced that MLK won the Nobel Peace Prize.


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A post shared by MASS Design Group (@massdesigngroup)

However, after the statue was debuted, it received mixed reactions from the public.

Some found the headless arms confusing or even disturbing, while others, like Martin Luther King III have defended the intentions of the artwork.


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Hank Willis Thomas: Website | Instagram
h/t: [CNNNPR]

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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