Art | May 3, 2021 6:31 am

Giant Marilyn Monroe Sculpture Sparks Controversy in Palm Springs

The battle over "Forever Marilyn" continues

"Forever Marilyn"
People visit the 'Forever Marilyn' statue of actress Marilyn Monroe in Palm Springs, California, on August 4, 2012.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

2011 saw the debut of a new work by sculptor J. Seward Johnson Jr., who died last year — a towering replica of Marilyn Monroe from the 1955 film The Seven-Year Itch. Forever Marilyn toured the world, including stops in Palm Springs, Bendigo and Chicago. In 2019, the mayor of Palm Springs announced that Forever Marilyn would return to the city. Eventually, a location was found for the statue — on a spot of land located right next to the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Things did not go smoothly. In a blistering piece at the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Knight critiqued both the sculpture and the city officials responsible for its return to Palm Springs. “Designed as a tourist photo op, the statue beckons viewers to saunter in between the late sex symbol’s giant gams, look up her dress and snap a picture for the amusement of the folks back home,” Knight wrote.

Later in the article, he argued that the sculpture “would be better called #MeToo Marilyn.”

An article on the controversy by Jori Finkel in The Art Newspaper included coverage of a rally critical of the statue itself and its placement. “It’s hard to find a single person in the Palm Springs art and design community who supports the city’s decision,” Finkel noted.

The Art Newspaper has a rundown of the efforts underway to stop the statue’s installation or find another location for it. The statue’s travels may not be at an end quite yet.