Broken Obelisk was designed in 1963–64 and two were cast in 1967. First exhibited in front of the Seagram Building in New York and another next to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1969 another was cast for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, while two others are permanently installed in Red Square on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle and in front of the Rothko Chapel in Houston. In 2003, with the permission of the Barnett Newman Foundation, a fourth Broken Obelisk was cast and temporarily installed in front of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
The sculpture in Houston is dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. It was initially acquired from the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. in 1971. In Washington, it had stood at the corner of New York Avenue, NW, and 17th Street. It had been part of an exhibit put on by the Corcoran in 1967 titled "Scale and Content" that included other sculptures. These were Tony Smith's "Smoke and Glass" and Ronald Bladen's "The X". It had generated some controversy in Washington, a city known for its monumental sculptures, as it appeared as a reference to a broken upside-down Washington monument at a time of civil unrest in 1968. When the Corcoran director James Harithas left, Barnett Newman had the sculpture removed in 1969. John de Menil funded the move of the sculpture to Houston, at which time it was dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Kelly, John (March 7, 2010), Washington Post: C3
- The Rothko Chapel Art and Architecture Retrieved May 24, 2013
- Images of Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman
- Abstract: Broken Obelisk - Barnett Newman
- Broken Obelisk
- Broken Obelisk at University of Washington
- The Broken Obelisk
- Save Outdoor Sculpture survey page.