"Forever Marilyn" Statue

July 23, 2011 — Right now, in one of the largest cities in the country, a six-foot-wide pair of white panties dominates one of the city’s most visible public spaces.

That city is Chicago, that public space is Pioneer Court, and those six-foot-wide panties are wrapped around the gigantic metal buttocks of a 26-foot-tall statue of actress Marilyn Monroe.

Called Forever Marilyn, the recently erected statue depicts one of Monroe’s most famous images, drawn from the 1955 Billy Wilder-directed and New York-based flick The Seven-Year Itch. In that scene, after exiting a showing of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, Monroe’s skirt is blown up by a subway grate, infecting her with the pathogen that gives her the titular condition.

Sort of cools the ankles, indeed.

Actually, the statue is more The Seven-Year Itch meets Attack of the 50-foot Woman. It’s also kind of atrocious.

And it’s no surprise that it’s the work of J. Seward Johnson, Jr., whose installation of Norma Jean’s private places in this public one is just another in his series of turning images we’ve all seen too many times three-dimensional and extremely large. He needs to fire his muse, I guess. Seward’s done this with that image of the U.S. Navy sailor kissing the nurse and, on the exact same spot as Forever Marilyn, the American Gothic farmers. I mean, I like his The Awakening enough that I visited it twice in two different locations (here and here), but that was an original vision creatively rendered.

Here, in this statue version of “Remember that scene from that one movie? That was cool,” Seward merely creates the world’s largest upskirt shot.

It’s not really worth seeing, but it’s kind of hard not to. Before you even have time to say, “So this is Chicag…Oh my,” you’ll pass by it. The realistically painted stainless steel and aluminum statue stands prominently in high heels in front of the former Equitable building at 401 N. Michigan Ave, and is bookended by the Tribune tower on her right and the Chicago River on her left.

You’ll probably not notice all that, though, as you’ll be too busy staring up her skirt. It’s not your (or my) fault. It’s Johnson’s.

Still, as cheesy as the statue is and as infinitely better uses of the space as there could be, there is something dramatic about seeing it up against the skyscrapers of Chicago. Then again, you could say that about anything giant, a giant Toucan Sam, a giant pineapple, a giant box of dental floss (not sure how to arrange those three for optimal effect). Giant for giant’s sake is just subgenre of kitsch, with very little value other than as a tourist photo…or website fodder.

Fortunately, it’s not a permanent piece of Chicago, and will only be there through the spring of 2012…but that just means it might be coming to your town next.

In the movie, the scene at topic is a flirtatious, leggy few seconds. Frozen and enlarged, it’s just a bloated, tacky monstrosity. Of course, most of us don’t know the image from its demure appearance in the movie anyway (you never saw her underwear in the scene), but from the many, much more unabashed PR shots taken during and after the filming. Heck, it’s said that the actual shooting of this scene is the reason her then-husband Joe DiMaggio divorced her.

I’m not sure what Joltin’ Joe would think of Johnson’s version of it, but something tells me his dusty finger bones are reaching through the loam for his best home run bat as we speak.


  1. This is disgusting. How much did Fox get for this? They overcharge for everything and give nothing. I love Marilyn and have all her movies. I saw Seven Year Itch at a sneak preview in San Francisco and thought it was wonderful. By the time the film had opened, it was edited to hell and the skirt blowing scene seemed to be entirely re-shot for the censors. When I saw it, her skirt blew up in a full shot and not the panning up to avoid showing her panties. Fox has outakes of scenes and musical numbers from her films. None have been released to the public. Fox hates Marilyn AND the public and give us this crap.

  2. thems some big panties

  3. I don't see anything wrong with this statue, nor the idea its artist draws from. Calling this an image "we've seen too many times" reflects the writer's discomfort, prejudice, and taste, and does not necessarily speak for all. The fact that forty plus years after her death, this actress still commands our attention and inspirers our imaginations means something. Monroe's life may have been chaotic, but her performances have endured along with the conflicted signals that accompany her voluptuous image; her iconic stature represents something essential both in the movies and, now, in life. This rant against the statue does not make sense. The writer does not really justify his opinion.

  4. Sexist, objectifying, and insulting to Marilyn Monroe's memory. FAIL.

  5. sexist, objectifying and insulting? its not as if this didn’t happen, she chose to do so. I’m all for female rights, but some feminists take it too far. we get it, okay, we get it.

  6. "Heck, it’s said that the actual shooting of this scene is the reason her then-husband Joe DiMaggio divorced her."

    He did not sue for divorce, she did. Big difference.

  7. We are basically of European heritage and in my time in Europe, I never saw, or ever expect to see, anything like this shown for public view. No wonder Europeans have such a negative view of us. I wish I had been born there instead of in the country that so many wrongfully refer to as the greatest country to ever exist.

    1. Love it, or Leave it!!!!!

  8. We all know that every woman has one and where it is and what it looks like and we sort of hope to get a glimpse now and then ... but we don't really like to be slapped in the face with it.

  9. I love Marilyn and I love this statue. What's wrong with it? It's probably the most iconic image of Marilyn around. Sex and morality were different when the scene was shot. Marilyn is probably the most famous, glamorous movie star of all time. I am glad that a sculptor has seen fit to honour her like this. Marilyn, I hope you are happy, wherever you are.

  10. Here's the thing. It doesn't actually look like Marilyn Monroe. All the posturing and morality aside. It's a poor likeness. It betrays a lack of skill on the artist's part.

  11. Personally, if Marilyn were alive today, I don't think she would feel very flattered by this. Also, if she were alive, would this have ever been commissioned or created? Doubtful. For the same reasons.

    Nope, I don't like this statue at all.

  12. I love her so much for her personal charm! I do yearn for her!