A statue meant to honor civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., dubbed “The Embrace,” was unveiled last week in Boston Common to less than glowing reviews. In fact, critics said the “woke” statue was a waste of money and inappropriately resembled a phallic shape.
“The Embrace” is certainly not the only statue-fail in recent years. Here are the top 10 swings and misses.
1. “The Embrace”
The 22-foot-tall bronze MLK tribute, sculpted by artist Hank Willis Thomas, is meant to depict intertwined arms — an embrace from MLK and his wife Coretta Scott King after King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It was reportedly approved by Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the late MLK.
But the statue did not please the general public, earning mockery online.
The new MLK statue is ugly because it's grotesque. And it's grotesque in precisely the way that so much of modernity is grotesque: it forgets that men are supposed to have heads and chests. pic.twitter.com/8zRnCkfOsJ
— Michael Knowles (@michaeljknowles) January 15, 2023
Even family of Coretta came out to trash the statue, saying it was a waste of money and resembled “a penis.”
“The mainstream media … was reporting on it like it was all beautiful, ’cause they were told they had to say that,” Seneca Scott, Coretta’s cousin, told the New York Post.
“But then when it came out, a little boy pointed out — ‘That’s a penis!’ and everyone was like, ‘Yo, that’s a big old d***, man,’” Seneca added. “If you had showed that statute to anyone in the ’hood, they’d have been like, ‘No, absolutely not.’”
Journalist Megyn Kelly echoed the same. “What it looks like, I’m just going to say it, a giant penis,” she offered on “The Megyn Kelly Show.” “I’m sorry, it does!”
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo is a good-looking guy, linked to some of the most beautiful women in the world. But a bust made by sculptor Emanuel Santos in the athlete’s likeness, unfortunately, fell short.
I defy you not to feel better after viewing this picture of Cristiano Ronaldo alongside his portrait bust. pic.twitter.com/kBCc7RtoUC
— Tom Sutcliffe (@tds153) March 29, 2017
Soon after the bust of Ronaldo was unveiled at the Madeira airport in 2017, the internet went wild.
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) March 29, 2017
Ronaldo’s brother, Hugo Aveiro, reportedly hated the statue so much that he successfully arranged for it to be replaced the following year.
3. “Fearless Girl”
In March 2017, a four-foot-high “Fearless Girl” statue was erected to face the iconic 11-foot-high “Charging Bull” statue in front of Wall Street, supposedly to urge corporations to choose more women in the upper echelon of their companies, The Daily Wire reported.
While some feminists turned the statue into an “equality” icon, often adding a pink “p**** hat” to her hat, the internet slammed the statue as a corporate publicity stunt.
“State Street built a statue of ‘Fearless Girl’ to celebrate feminism in corporate America: ‘SHE makes a difference,’ they said. What they didn’t say: they were really marketing an ETF with the ticker ‘SHE,’ while also batting down a lawsuit from their own female employees,” reacted tech entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy. “And it gets even better: they eventually went on to sue the female artist they hired to make the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue, because she allegedly made an unauthorized reproduction of it. You can’t make this stuff up.”
And it gets even better: they eventually went on to sue the female artist they hired to make the “Fearless Girl” statue, because she allegedly made an unauthorized reproduction of it. You can’t make this stuff up.
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) January 11, 2023
By May 2017, a New York City sculptor named Alex Gardega created a urinating dog sculpture, titled “Pissing Pug,” and placed it next to the left leg of the “Fearless Girl” statue. Ouch.
That Fearless Girl statue just got a Pissing Pug next to her. How long before other artists show up and the whole thing becomes a mess? pic.twitter.com/nACg3zHJKk
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) May 30, 2017
And by 2018, “Fearless Girl” was removed.
4. Greta Thunberg
Students at the University of Winchester in England revolted against the school, back in 2021, for erecting a statue of climate extremist Greta Thunberg, a darling of the progressive Left.
Student groups were unhappy with the university’s decision to erect the life-sized bronze statue, which reportedly cost around $33,000, the same year many students were facing financial struggles due to the COVID pandemic, The Daily Wire reported.
Greta Thunberg Statue Installed At University Of Winchester pic.twitter.com/5kFpgYBXep
— Finnbarr Webster (@finnbarrw) March 31, 2021
Winchester UCU president Megan Ball said the union could not get behind the sculpture, despite their aligning Left-wing politics.
“We’re in a Covid year, lots of students haven’t really had access to campus, lots of them are trying to study online and are in dire need of support,” she said.
“We are calling on the university to match the statue cost by committing £23,760 in additional funding to student support services across campus,” Ball added. “We urge them to publicly face the critical issues which students are highlighting and provide a transparent breakdown of additional and existing financial support.”
Others argued the Thunberg statue was ironically bad for the environment.
Greta Thunberg bronze statue at @_UoW
– Smelting process environmentally harmful
– Produces toxic wastewater
– Releases toxic copper, silver+iron to cobalt/selenium into atmosphere
– Smelters release sulphur dioxide damaging soil/water tables. pic.twitter.com/wEXlGLFM61
— Thomas Evans ♿ 🇺🇦 ❤ #GodSaveTheKing (@ThomasEvansAdur) March 31, 2021
5. Peyton Manning
Former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame back in 2021. During the NFL great’s induction ceremony, a bronze bust of the athlete sparked some mockery online.
“Some said that in the sculpture, the NFL legend looks quite annoyed, and have also questioned the size of Manning’s forehead in the bronze work,” MARCA reported on the backlash. “The work will remind many of the infamous bust of Cristiano Ronaldo in Madeira airport in Portugal, which bears little resemblance to the Portuguese star.”
payton manning's hall of fame bust pic.twitter.com/i5tOF1knDS
— Dylan Jackson (@realdylanjacks) August 9, 2021
6. Giuseppe Veneziano Sculpture
Italian artist Giuseppe Veneziano turned heads internationally back in 2011 with his bloody McDonald’s-inspired twist on a Greek classic.
The edgy Veneziano statue shows a decapitated Ronald McDonald head, blood and all, being held up by his iconic red hair. Differing sources connect the statue as either a twist on a work from sculptor Antonio Canova back in the late 1700’s of a marble Perseus holding the head of Medusa, or, a painting by Michelangelo Carravagio back in the 1600’s, called “David Holding the Head of Goliath.”
The internet seemed to react in both amusement and horror. But we’re considering this a fail.
7. Fish In Morocco
A statue of fish erected in Morocco was quickly demolished after intense backlash from citizens who thought the fish resembled a certain male appendage.
“Pornographic fish,” one person complained, according to The Daily Mail. “People in Kenitra asked for reforms, authorities [brought them this].”
On social media, officials from the City of Kenitra posted, “In response to the many complaints from citizens asking for the demolition of the sculpture representing two fish and located on one of the roundabouts in the town of Mehdia.”
“We inform the public opinion of Kenitra, that the town of Kenitra has no relation with this subject, and that the sculpture in question is not located on its territory,” the city added.
8. Lucille Ball
An unflattering statue erected in New York back in 2009, which was intended to honor comedian Lucille Ball, was quickly met with mockery online. The Dave Poulin creation, displayed in Ball’s hometown of Celoron, was unfortunately dubbed “Scary Lucy.”
Worst statue since scary Lucy in Celeron, NY pic.twitter.com/Oprv9gkwGM
— Jeff (@JeffLippy) January 15, 2023
“I take full responsibility for ‘Scary Lucy,’ though by no means was that my intent or did I wish to disparage in any way the memories of the iconic Lucy image,” Poulin later told The Hollywood Reporter, reacting to the backlash.
Poulin reportedly offered to replace the statue for free, but that never happened. Instead, sculptor Carolyn Palmer replaced the artwork with her own life-size creation of the beloved “I Love Lucy” in 2016, to much fanfare.
Today in 1951, "I Love Lucy" premiered. In 2012, Lucille Ball's hometown of Celoron, NY tried to honor her with a statue. After much backlash, "Scary Lucy" was replaced by "Lovely Lucy," created by Syracuse artist Carolyn Palmer. #OHAStories #CNYHistory #ILoveLucyDay #ScaryLucy pic.twitter.com/THZw90Ty36
— OHA (@OnondagaHisAssn) October 15, 2022
American artist Paul McCarthy in 2014 designed an inflatable sculpture to be displayed at the Place Vendôme in Paris. The often-crass artist was dissed for creating a Christmas tree, dubbed “Tree,” that some said intentionally looked like a buttp***.
Notably, McCarthy in 2001 installed a bronze sculpture at a park in the Netherlands of a Santa Claus holding a buttp***, The Guardian notes.
Inflatable Christmas tree installation by Paul McCarthy (2014) pic.twitter.com/ujo9ggxWvK
— SKURT (@168skrt) December 18, 2022
Some Parisians slammed McCarthy for humiliating the country.
— Printemps Français (@nelachonsrien) October 16, 2014
McCarthy was reportedly assaulted over the inflatable statue, and the piece was destroyed overnight by critics who turned off the fan inflating the “Tree” and slashing the straps that kept it in place, Highsnobiety reported.
10. Marilyn Monroe
A giant Marilyn Monroe statue created by sculptor Seward Johnson had some angry feminists calling foul for allegedly perpetuating misogyny. The 26-foot-high, 24,000-pound “Forever Marilyn” sculpture is a depiction of Monroe, real name Norma Jeane Mortenson, acting in the film “The Seven Year Itch.”
Forever Marilyn Statue, Palm Springs
Not without controversy, this 26 foot statue was placed in front of the entrance to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Say what you will, Marilyn is still in the public eye 60 years after her demise. pic.twitter.com/r7qL7aZl5y
— Max Brown (@MaxBrown7) December 6, 2021
Some online called the statue “misogynistic,” and it even sparked protests.
— Christopher Knight (@KnightLAT) June 20, 2021
🚩Sun. June 20th. Palm Springs at 6pm. We will protest against the "Forever Marilyn" statue that promotes sexist values.
📍Museum Way between Museum Drive and Belardo, Downtown Palm Springs
— Women’s March Foundation (@wmnsfoundation) June 19, 2021
There was even a Change.org petition started called “Stop the misogynist #MeTooMarilyn statue in Palm Springs.” It amassed nearly 42,000 signatures.
“Placing a hyper-sexualized, misogynist statue of Marilyn at the entrance to the elegant Palm Springs Art Museum sends a message to the community, its visitors (especially young, innocent children), and tourists that this somehow represents ‘the real Marilyn,’ a Marilyn she would have been proud to see celebrated,” the petition reads.
“Well, it’s not. In fact, it’s the opposite,” it continues. “She wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and not just a sexual icon. We join others in asking the City of Palm Springs to venerate—not defile—her memory.”
Though the statue sparked much controversy, it actually is extremely beloved in Palm Springs. Some would argue this is a triumph, not a fail.