Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions to the fight for civil rights in the face of Jim Crow laws have had quite a lasting, international impact. This sentiment holds within every event, tribute, or art piece created in his honor. Over the decades, artists have shared their admiration for MLK through various mediums. Whether in sculpture, wood engraving, painted portrait, or mural, these artworks prove Dr. King's influence is everlasting.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial of Washington, D.C.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, located in D.C., came to fruition in 2011. Production for this sculpture began in the late 90s, starting with the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation.
A competition was held to select a design and, in 2000, a plan made by the ROMA Design Group was selected. By 2007, the foundation assigned a sculptor to the project—Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin. The statue opened to the public in 2011.
The Modern Martyrs at Westminster Abbey
In 1998, a sculptor named Tim Crawley produced statues of ten so-called saints in world history. The Martyrs are all noted to be historical giants that faced prejudice for their faith in the Christian religion throughout the twentieth century.
Naturally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was selected as one of the ten to sit above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey.
Demand Justice Art Installation
If you venture anywhere in America, you will find a plethora of art installations dedicated to many different public figures. MLK is often the subject for these pieces, with hundreds of installations around the country.
Maxwell Emcays used his activism and artistic expertise combined to spread a bold but necessary statement—Demand Justice. Frequently moving around the Windy City before collapsing this past October, many Chicagoans have documented the brilliant work through photographs, allowing the powerful message to remain.
Study for Hope Moving Forward Sculpture
Sitting on display along Martin Luther King Boulevard in Atlanta is a sculpture symbolizing optimism and peace unveiled in January 2021. An artist and sculptor named Basil Watson manifested the powerful piece in the birthplace of MLK.
The monument depicts the beloved minister releasing a dove to represent "hope moving forward." An engraved passage on the statue’s platform reads, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library Portrait
Located in the central building of the District of Columbia Public Library system, a green, monochromatic painted portrait of MLK rests. The recently renovated MLK Memorial Library first opened to the public in 1972.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Statue at King’s Chapel in Morehouse College
While the general public understands who MLK was and what he stood for, his place of education is less well-known. From 1944 to 1948, MLK completed his undergraduate studies at the men’s HBCU, Morehouse College.
The college nicknamed their church “King’s Chapel” in 1978 as a nod to his alumnae status. MLK’s statue was later erected in front of the church as a gift from the National Baptist Convention USA.
Martin Luther King Jr. Portrait in France
While MLK possesses the highest regard throughout America, he is still recognized and respected all around the globe. Painted in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or, France, a 2013 portrait of MLK manifests.
The artwork sits within a museum called La Demeure du Chaos (The Abode of Chaos), curated and created by an entrepreneur named Thierry Ehrmann in 1999. The museum features unique and unconventional contemporary art.
MLK LEGO Sketch
Speaking of unconventional art mediums, LEGO artist Iain Heath produced a sketch made entirely from LEGO pieces in 2018 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of MLK’s assassination. The intricate LEGO art illustrates the countless communities MLK continues to inspire in the present.
Poster of Wood Engraved Martin Luther King Jr.
The Southern Leadership Christian Conference published a poster using this drawing of MLK shortly after he was assassinated.
The original illustration created by Ben Sahn was featured on the cover of Time magazine in March of 1965. Not long after this publication, Sahn’s close colleague, Stefan Martin, engraved a copy on wood in 1968.
Martin Luther King Jr. Bust at the National Portrait Gallery
This bronze bust of the civil rights activist was sculpted by Joseph Stein and was once perched in the MLK Memorial Library’s lobby before transference.
Stein sculpted the bust in 1969 before it arrived at the National Portrait Gallery in 2000. It remains a part of the permanent gallery exhibition entitled The Struggle for Justice.