Marilyn Monroe has been immortalized in a 26ft high statue – in her classic skirt-billowing pose from Billy Wilder’s 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch, in which Marilyn Monroe is standing on a subway grate as her dress is blown up.
The long-awaited 26-foot stainless steel and aluminum sculpture ‘Forever Marilyn’ by J. Seward Johnson was unveiled Saturday at 401 N. Michigan Avenue in Pioneer Plaza on Magnificent Mile in Chicago, raising more than a few eyebrows due to its risqué appearance. It will remain on display through the spring of 2012 unless public outcry sends Marilyn packing. It will then go to its owner, The Sculpture Foundation, a non-profit making organisation promoting public access to art.
Seward’s unerring eye means that there is attention to detail in every respect. The statue stands on a platform in the shape of a subway grate. Seward Johnson, famous for his hyperrealistic sculptures, specialises in bronzes, which he paints and turns into “trompe-l’oeil.” Forever Marylin, his latest creation, is part of his ICONS REVISITED series.
Visitors to statue have a choice – to peek or not to peek. No prize for guessing what a large number chose to do! Many headed directly underneath for what must have been an eye-watering view and to take rather lewd novelty pics. It comes as no surprise that most of the people with cameras seem to be men…and many men have been spotted gawping. Anyone expecting naughty underwear may be disappointed. As in the movie, Forever Marilyn is wearing a pair of perfectly proper white lace panties.
There’s no doubt that the “Seven-Year Itch” iconic scene is a part of the American imagination — the white halter dress Monroe wore in the scene sold at auction for no less than $5.6 million.
“To some, the iconic dress-flapping pose in Seward Johnson’s sculpture Forever Marilyn stands as testament to a classic American beauty,” the Chicago Tribune remarks diplomatically. “To others, the installation on Michigan Avenue is a shameful exercise in caveman misogyny.”
The Sun Times has a less judgmental take on “Forever Marilyn”: “Even worse than the sculpture itself is the photo-op behavior it’s inspiring. Men (and women) licking Marilyn’s leg, gawking up her skirt, pointing at her giant panties as they leer and laugh.”
Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich gave the sculpture a scathing review. She called it “as tawdry as a peep show,” and complained about the men walking by who were seen “shooting photos of her crotch while one stuck out his tongue to mime a lick.”
“The original image (from ‘The Seven Year Itch’) is coy,” Schmich wrote. “Marilyn on the Mag Mile is crude.”