Forever Marilyn dumped in Chinese Landfill


Words by Billie Jenkins Image courtesy of NBC

In 2011 a statue immortalising the iconic skirt blowing scene from Marilyn Monroe’s  The Seven Year Itch was showcased for the first time by J. Seward Johnson. Forever Marilyn divided spectators, most arguments focusing on whether it was fantastically tacky a la Koons, or an eyesore whose only redeeming value was the smutty photo opportunity it offered those passing its Chicago home. As is usually the case, whilst the critics resigned themselves to indecision, the auction hammer was happy to shout out it’s value; later that year the work was sold at auction for $5.6 million.

Fast forward to this week, and whilst the original sits comfortably at the Hamilton’s retrospective of Johnson, a replica has turned up in a Chinese landfill sight. The like-sized copy of the statue lies face down in the dirt, skirt to the sky, amongst piles of debris. If I was being smug I might suggest this representation of one of celebrity cultures most iconic events, in it’s recycled, pastiched, exhausted and disposed form makes a much a much stronger statement than the original piece ever did. So far removed from the vivid glamour of the original event, the image reads like J. G. Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition.

The fake statue was created for (shock) a business centre. It took two years to make and was displayed for only six months before being disposed of for ‘unknown reasons’. Since its discovery a campaign has emerged in Palm Springs, where the statue spent two years, for the fake to be salvaged and shipped over for resurrection. What ever the fate of Forever Marilyn No. 2 is, it can’t be denied that these rare, happy accidents, where so-called art is violently displaced from its ordinary setting, offers an interesting perspective – even if it is an iconic image on the rubbish heap.

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