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26-foot-tall Marilyn Monroe sculpture lands in Palm Springs

May 16, 2012 |  4:15 pm


“Forever Marilyn,” the 26-foot-tall statue that became a controversial fixture on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, has been getting final touchups since its arrival in Palm Springs on Monday morning.

The 34,000-pound sculpture, which cost about $40,000 to transport, took a week to be trucked across the country. Passersby have gotten a sneak peak this week as installers, and a few cranes, reassemble the statue at Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Way, where it will remain until June 2013.

"When we drove up to Palm Springs, we couldn’t believe it," said Audrey Vernon, 67, who was on vacation with her husband. "It was quite impressive."

PHOTOS: Giant Marilyn Monroe sculpture

The sculpture by Seward Johnson, the 80-year-old artist and Johnson & Johnson heir who’s known for casting famous images into giant sculptures, re-creates the scene from the 1955 film "The Seven Year Itch" in which a drafty New York subway grate blows the sex symbol's skirt well above her knees.

Vernon, who lives right by the Grounds for Sculpture garden in New Jersey, said she had seen many other pieces by Johnson, including the smaller version of the Marilyn statue. "It was great," she said. "It felt like home, getting to see her."

But the piece didn't receive the warmest reception in Chicago during its time there and was the target of more than a few vandals and critics. Some called the undergarment-baring pose sexist, while VirtualTourist.com dubbed "Forever Marilyn" the No. 1 piece of bad public art -- ahead of a “Bewitched” statue in Salem, Mass.

Several cities lined up to host the massive Marilyn when its Chicago residency wrapped, perhaps because August marks the 50th anniversary of the Hollywood legend’s death.

"We received many requests as far away as Tokyo and Madrid and cities in Brazil, and we really felt that Palm Springs has a special connection to Marilyn because it is the legendary play land for Hollywood," said Paula Stoeke, the director and curator of the Sculpture Foundation, an organization funded and run by Johnson with offices in Santa Monica.

In downtown Palm Springs, the city is busy preparing “Marilyn” for its debut.

"She’s still being assembled-- it’s taking a while because it’s been so hot, making the surface hot to touch," said Nona Watson, CEO of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce.

The statue will be covered up as soon as it’s touched up, Watson said. The official ribbon-cutting and unveiling, co-presented by the chamber and P.S. Resorts, will be held May 24 at 6 p.m.


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-- Rosanna Xia