It’s a rainy day in Chicago and tourists and locals alike will be saying farewell to “Forever Marilyn,” the 26-foot statue by New Jersey artist J. Seward Johnson that has held court on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile since July.
Not quite a year, but long enough to kick up a stir. There was a lot of attention and a lot of controversy for this piece of public art. Some have called it whimsical. Some have called it schlock. Few would disagree that it draws tourists by the boatload. In fact, many of them stop by before or after taking a boat ride on the nearby Chicago River.
The steel and aluminum statue of Monroe, positioned in her famous pose from “The Seven Year Itch,” has become a destination point for camera-toting tourists. The statue gets dismantled Monday night and trucked cross country for her next gig – this time in Palm Springs, Calif.
What some of the critics complained of, besides the statue’s questionable artistic merit and its relevance to Chicago, was its voyeuristic quality. Marilyn’s skirt is frozen in the air, white panties on display, thousands of tourists snapping picture standing between the legs and pointing upwards.
The website Virtual Tourist called “Forever Marilyn” the worst piece of public art in the world.
Poor Marilyn. She endured Chicago’s albeit mild winter and rainy spring without anything to cover her bare shoulders. But she was rarely alone. Despite the controversy, there seemed to always be someone with her at all hours of the day and night. And for some, that’s the hallmark of a successful piece of public art.
Even the Chicago Tribune, in an editorial last week, noted that "Forever Marilyn" had become a part of the Chicago experience for visitors: "There's the whole family, mugging at its reflection in The Bean. There are the kids, staring in awe at Sue, the skeletal T-Rex. There's Dad, posing on the ramp at U.S. Cellular with the skyline in the background. And there's Grandpa, pointing up Marilyn's skirt."