The site was set to open at about 11 a.m. EST. The opening kicks off a week of celebrations leading up to the official dedication of the $120 million memorial on Sunday, August 28.
Controversy over the 30-foot tall statue has emerged over the fact that it was sculpted by Chinese artist Lei Yixin.
Denver-based artist Ed Dwight, who was on an early planning team for the King memorial, said, "Dr. King would be turning over in his grave if he knew [the sculptor was from a communist country,]. "He would rise up from his grave and walk into their offices and go, 'How dare you?'"
The official name of the monument is the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument. The website for the monument has a virtual tour that can be taken by site visitors.
Among other complaints about the monument are those saying that Dr. King's face looks Asian. It's been added that the expression and demeanor of the status appears confrontational, as King's arms are folded.
That said, the statue's head was chosen by the late civil rights leader's children, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King. Given a choice between the currently used model of King's head, as well as three others Lei had created, the children chose the one on the monument.
Executive architect Ed Jackson, who presented King's children with the choices, said "I informed them that this was the one that had generated all that controversy about their father looking confrontational. Martin said, 'Well if my father was not confrontational, given what he was facing at the time, what else could he be?'"
Despite the complaints, Martin Luther King III complimented Lei's work. He said, "This particular artist — he's done a good job."
The memorial was in the making for over 15 years. Moves to create the monument began with a resolution signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton to establish a memorial “honoring the life, the dream and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” on the National Mall. The groundbreaking for the memorial took place on November 13, 2006. This Sunday’s dedication, August 28th, will marks the 48th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.
It sits on the National Mall near the Tidal Basin, between memorials honoring Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and includes the aformentioned 30-foot-tall sculpture of King, as well as a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 of King's quotations.
You can watch the virtual tour, embedded below.
Image Source: Video Capture