'Sexist' Marilyn Monroe statue installed in Palm Springs amid widespread opposition
Updated 24th June 2021
People visit the "Forever Marilyn" statue unveiled today on its return to Palm Springs, California on June 20, 2021. - The 26-foot tall and 17-ton sculpture by artist Seward Johnson Atelier was displayed earlier this decade in Palm Springs, but the return has drawn the ire of residents on infringement of surrounding natural landscape views and on allegations the statue is sexist and inapropriate, despite the popularity of Marilyn Monroe's iconic dress-flying pose from the 1955 comedy "The Seven Year Itch." - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION / (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images) Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
Written by Jori Finkel
This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.
Multiple protests, a popular petition, a legal action and a small fire have not been enough to stop the city of Palm Springs from installing a supersized and "hyper-sexualized" Marilyn Monroe sculpture on a public site next to the Palm Springs Art Museum.
On Sunday, city council members presided over a dedication ceremony for the sculpture by late artist Seward Johnson known as "Forever Marilyn" -- or #metoomarilyn by those who find it exploitative -- that shows the actress with her white dress flying up above her waist. There was no damage from the fire, which took place 10 days ago when welders were working on sculpture and some bubble wrap started smoking.
Protesters gather at the "Forever Marilyn" statue by Seward Johnson in Palm Springs. Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images
The ceremony came complete with a flyover from a vintage World War II plane, a North American T-28A Trojan from the Palm Springs Air Museum. But no leaders of the art museum, which now has a view of Marilyn's exposed underwear, were an official part of the ceremony. The last four directors of the museum have publicly opposed its placement there, as have a number of activist groups, including CReMa (the Committee to Relocate Marilyn) and the Women's March LA.
Both of these groups sent protestors to the dedication ceremony with chants that drowned out some of the speakers. "It was nonstop chanting, both pro and con -- you couldn't really hear the speakers," said realtor Chris Menrad, who co-founded CReMa with the Palm Springs fashion designer Trina Turk. "The goal of us being there was basically to disrupt the event and communicate our displeasure."
The city council, which voted unanimously to place Marilyn in this location after it was bought by a city-funded tourism agency (it previously made a cameo downtown from 2012 to 2014) has repeatedly given a boost in tourism as its reason for doing so. Reached by phone in Santa Fe, Turk responded that the only thing that the sculpture has accomplished in the past is boosting Instagram posts, saying "social media posts don't pay the bills."
"They're talking about helping all the struggling businesses downtown who have lost revenue because of Covid. But if you look at the place lately, it's a zoo. Our numbers have been better than they were in 2019," she added, referring to her flagship store downtown.
She adds that CReMa is still seeking the sculpture's relocation from next to the museum through a lawsuit against the city and the statue's owner P.S. Resorts, citing various public codes and the museum's landmark status as a Class One historic monument.
"We're going to see the legal thing through to the very end, even if that means appealing and appealing and appealing. I don't think the protests will be over either," Turk said.