Giant Marilyn Monroe Moons Palm Springs Museum; Some Want It Canceled

Monday May 17, 2021

The Forever Marilyn statue in Palm Springs
The Forever Marilyn statue in Palm Springs  (Source:Associated Press)

"Forever Marilyn" may not be a permanent part of the Palm Springs' landscape if some members of the desert community have their way. The 26-foot statue of Monroe — that has been given that moniker — was a major tourist attraction in the city from 2012 to 2014 when it sat near a much-trafficked street corner.

The statue, designed by Seward Johnson, recreates one of the most iconic images from Monroe's films: when she stood over a subway grate in "The Seven Year Itch" (released in 1955) and the draft blew up her skirt. Johnson's work, comprised of painted stainless steel and aluminum, first was seen in Chicago before being transferred to Palm Springs for its two year stay. It was subsequently moved to a New Jersey statuary garden for a retrospective of Johnson's work for a year before moving down under in 2016 for a Monroe exhibit. It returned to America for another Johnson's retrospective in 2018 as its centerpiece; but invited controversy when it was placed with her billowing skirt exposing her undies facing the church.

That controversy is back now that the statue has returned to a permanent location in Palm Springs with a petition receiving nearly 41,000 signatures (towards a goal of 50,000) for removal. "Placing a hyper-sexualized, misogynist statue of Marilyn at the entrance to the elegant Palm Springs Art Museum sends a message to the community, its visitors (especially young, innocent children), and tourists that this somehow represents "the real Marilyn," a Marilyn she would have been proud to see celebrated," reads the text to the petition.

Louis Grachos, the director of the Palm Springs Art Museum, had complained about the plan to place the statue outside the museum last November to the city council, expressing his concerns that Monroe's underthings would be seen by the thousands of students who pass through the museum annually. ""The thought of those kids leaving our museum and having the first thing they see is the undergarments and underwear of this enormous Marilyn sculpture would be highly offensive," Grachos told the council as reported by NPR.

"They were unmoved and gave the statue the go ahead to be temporarily placed in-front of the museum for three years," reported NPR.

"She's literally going to be mooning the museum," says Elizabeth Armstrong, a former museum director and spokesperson for a petition."It's blatantly sexist," said Armstrong, NPR reported. "It forces people almost to upskirt."

"Upskirting is the practice of taking a photo up a person's skirt. If Marilyn were a person and not a statue, upskirting her could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor in California."

Others are also protesting the statue, but not for the same reasons. "Led by fashion designer Trina Turk, it's not raising concerns over sexism and the statue's pose. Instead, they're putting the focus on complex local regulations and city planning," wrote NPR.

On the other side of the issue is PS Resorts, who purchased the Monroe statue for one million dollars. The New York Post reports that managing director and head of PS Resorts Aftab Dada, said "Forever Marilyn" is a welcomed addition to the city's sights.

"She makes [the] majority of the people very happy," said Dada, who spearheaded the return of the statue to the city.

"The photos taken, and being transmitted all over the world, will do nothing but benefit the city of Palm Springs," he said.