SOREL ETROG, R.C.A.
HOMAGE TO DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, 1967-68
signed and numbered 1/7 on the base
including base 18.25 ins x 13.75 ins x 4.5 ins; 45.7 cms x 35.6 cms x 11.43 cms
On April 4, 1968 Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King was shot by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. King had been in Memphis in support of striking African American sanitation workers and it was there that he delivered his final speech which has become known as the “Mountain Top” speech: “I’ve been to the mountain top... and I’ve seen the promised Land.”
Many viewed the speech as prophetic; King had received death threats before and worried privately that he, too, might be targeted by a mad man as had President Kennedy before him and as Bobby Kennedy would be barely a month later.
In hospital shortly after being shot, King succumbed to his wounds. When news of his death was made public, the world held its breath. Soon after, the demonstrations and rioting began.
Sorel Etrog (1933-2014) received news of the assassination while working on the creation of a bronze head. The artist reacted to it by deciding to name the work in honour of Dr. King.
Etrog has produced other homages to individuals he admired, among them the thirteenth century Italian painter Cimabue; the Hungarian linguist, philosopher and composer Zoltan Kodaly; the Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa; musician Louis Armstrong; dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky; Pablo Picasso, and Romanian avant-garde poet Tristan Tzara.
Here, as in the Homage to Louis,1969, with which it shares the closest affinity, dense knots or links intertwine to form a totemic and enduring portrait, made all the more poignant as this year marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s passing.
This work is being sold to benefit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg.
Carlo L. Ragghianti, Sorel Etrog: 1958-1968, Centro di edizione, Firenze, 1968, cat. no. 46, for Homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, reproduced.
Carlo L. Ragghianti, Sorel Etrog, Centro di edizione, Firenze, 1968, page 60, for Homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, reproduced.
Alan Toff, Sorel Etrog: One Decade, (catalogue), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1968, cat. no. 34, for Homage to Dr. Martin Luther King, reproduced.
The Cult of the Head: Sculptures by Sorel Etrog, (catalogue), Singapore Art Museum, National Heritage Board, Singapore, 1997, page 15 and cat. no.4, reproduced.
Pierre Restany, Sorel Etrog, Prestel, Munich, London, New York, 2001, page 85 for Homage to Louis,1969, reproduced.
Estate of the artist
The Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg