Marilyn Monroe Sculpture Drawing Controversy On Mag Mile

Updated 7/15/2011 at 4:00 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The long-awaited 26-foot sculpture of Marilyn Monroe was unveiled on the Magnificent Mile Friday morning, amid some controversy about its risqué appearance.

The three-part piece sculpture by artist Seward Johnson was unveiled in Pioneer Court alongside Tribune Tower.

It depicts Monroe as she appeared in an iconic scene in the 1955 movie “The Seven Year Itch,” where her dress goes flying up as she stands over a New York subway grate, leaving her underwear exposed.

One by one, group by group, admirers climbed onto the fake subway grate to take photos with the oversize Marilyn.

“Come on, what is it like, 25 to 30 feet tall? It’s outrageous,” Scott Simonson said while posing for a picture. “It’s really cool. I love it.”

Ruth Soil says she’s a teeny bit offended.

“Trying to live up to this image killed her,” she told CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez. “I don’t know what the message is. I would have liked to see a more serious image of a woman instead of with her skirt blowing and everyone looking up her dress.”

The artists told CBS 2 the statue is intended to celebrate everything Marilyn stood for. That’s what art is supposed to do, he said.

The sculpture was built in a studio in New Jersey and brought to Chicago.  It is aluminum from the waist up, but below the waist she’s a woman of steel. That’s because so much is resting on those spike heels.

Pioneer Court has previously hosted sculptures depicting Shakespeare’s “King Lear” Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”

Melissa Farrell of Zeller Realty Group told WBBM Newsradio 780 earlier this week that the 26-foot sculpture will be quite the attraction.

“We are installing a large scale public artwork. It’s very visible to the public and it becomes a tourist attraction. People come to Chicago to see it,” Farrell said.

In his Perspective Thursday night, CBS 2’s Walter Jacobson said the sculpture will be a welcome addition to the Mag Mile.

“So we did not get the Olympics, but we have Ms. Monroe, keeping us on top of the outdoor world, and just when we need it, a smile on that mile,” he said.

But Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich gave the sculpture a scathing review. She called it “as tawdry as a peep show,” and complained about the men walking by who were seen “shooting photos of her crotch while one stuck out his tongue to mime a lick.”

“The original image (from ‘The Seven Year Itch’) is coy,” Schmich wrote. “Marilyn on the Mag Mile is crude.”

But fans and foes alike will have to get used to the sculpture. It will be towering over Michigan Avenue through next spring.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

  • Controversial Marilyn Monroe statue unveiled on Magnificent Mile « Loyola Student Dispatch

    […] depicts Monroe as she appeared in an iconic scene in the 1955 movie “The Seven Year Itch,” where her dress goes flying up as she stands over a New York subway grate, leaving her […]

  • Mike

    In very bad taste.

    • Trisha Johnson

      What? Her crotch?

      • GM

        No , yours.

    • Jennifer C.

      It is the ugliest monstrosity I have ever seen… Poor Chicago…

      • bruce brinkmann

        The image I get is her lying in a bed in her own pee and puke dead from an overdose. Her life ended tragically, and I wouldn’t doubt this famous pose had something to do with her death.

    • john Kucera

      my patents would have washed my mouth with soap if i had looked up a woman’s skirt. no Brazilian wax in NYC then. peepers got the same view as Monroe’s gynecologist that night/

  • Maria- Magdalena

    @ Danny: we still dress like women…

  • ilovechitown

    Great location for this sculpture. I used to walk past the Trib bldg everyday to work when I lived up North. Something like this would have definitely put a smile on my face everyday just because it is so silly (in a good way).

  • Cindy Dial

    American culture just isn’t, is it?

    • bobsan

      Thank God it isn’t Lady Gaga!

      • DeepWheat

        THREAD WINNER!!! +1000

  • LeCritiqueDuArt

    The woman was a work of art. The sculpture, however, is a tacky eyesore. It belongs in a trailer park or a ghetto. PERFECT fit for Chicago.

    • Regulas

      Agreed and I bet it was funded by money stolen (taxes) by the dredge if a city known as Chicago.

    • J_312

      Pompous much? Or just ignorant?

    • dposey

      of all places why a trailer park or ghetto..?? is it that bad?? just wondering.

  • Su Yu

    Ridiculous,… belongs in New York on the actual spot where it happened!

    • Chicago Nick

      Thank you. Hollywood Boulevard, perfect, or the yet built but surely dreamed of Marilyn Monroe theme park in LA where she was born!! There the thing wouldn’t cause an eye to bat. It makes Chicago look totally Second city with NYC Hollywood penile envy. :(

    • Michael in Boston

      It is in the Windy City.

  • teddysalad

    duh, it’s big, so i gotta go see it, duh…

  • Ed

    I wouldn’t have left Chicago if Marilyn had been there with her skirt up. Finally a good looking woman with no tatoos.

    • Tess

      Hey Ed…I’m a woman in her 60s (happily married for 45 yrs. – to a man) and can’t agree with you more. As an ex-Chicagoan I appreciate the wimsy of the city and it’s soooo refreshing to see the image of a woman who actually looks like a woman (as opposed to a ‘tatted’ straw).

  • BPatMan

    The artist says that the statue is supposed to “celebrate everything Marilyn stood for.” But what did she stand for? She was a tragic figure who was never taken seriously and famous only because of her looks. What is the point of this statue? She wasn’t even from Chicago.

  • Tom

    What a fitting place to put a very accurate lewd statue of Monroe with most people wondering what color panties she’s got on. Right on Michigan where most of the black mobs have been targeting people for robbery. Now lets build a couple of casinos in the same area and attract the deadbeats who gamble their lives away in 9% unemployment! great idea Chicago!

  • Katie Spears


  • Robert

    All these years later and still Marilyn causes an outcry! God Bless her!

  • Andrew

    I’m confused.. a Hollywood star known for her sexual exploits and possible drug abuse which led to her death, gets a statue representing “everything she stands for” in a city she has little to no connection to, using an image taken from a movie in New York City. Am I missing something?

    • bobsan

      Well, it could be worse. It could be “Snookie”.

      • pitch_fork_ready

        hahahaha! good one!

    • krissy

      I TOTALLY AGREE..she was sleeping with everyone and on drugs..and they put a statue up of her??? this world has lost it!

  • Robert

    Hey Ruth, “Trying to live up to this image” did not kill her. JFK’s good squad did.

    • Robert

      Or rather “goon squad”.

      • CONNECTICUT SSN 042-68-4425

        Meanwhile, The Usurper and The Hamburgler, continue their destructive reign over the USA –

      • Chicago Nick

        Point taken…. and agreed down below… I can’t believe the sick TMZ culture we live in. If aliens came down here they’d think seeing this and statue of liberty that the country was run by pornographers. Well, it almost is because what Chicago fraud Obama is doing to the nation is nothing short of pornographic, just picture Barney Frank and there’s your imagery of what DC dems and lib decadence are doing to this nation.. :( This belongs in a Monroe theme park.

    • Ben

      I was going to post that also, until I saw your comment.

  • Lex

    After the pervert Vatican filling Europe with nude little boys this is modest.

    • John

      What the phuck are you talking about

  • tao

    living up to an image killed her? jfk, rfk

  • Bobby

    Utterly disgusting. That poor woman led an awful life, fraught with broken marriages and her sad life ended with a drug overdose. I see no reason whatsoever to portray this woman as anything near a role model or someone to aspire to be like. She may be an historic american, but it’s the type of history we’d rather not repeat. Of course, in modern America many people have lost all class and clout might I add. It’s not a surprise than many find this entertaining.

    • Col. Knife

      Excuse me but you will note Bobby Kennedy is the prime suspect in her death. And the art work is great I like it.

  • Chicago Nick

    The woman in the story quoted is right, that very image is what got her killed by the president the left has been creaming about ever since . And had not Daley Sr engineered the Kennedy victory with fraud the world knows all about, both Kennedy’s and her might even be alive today. Think about that for a minute.

    Now let’s cover why a Playboy centerfold 4 stories high is Apropos in the middle of Chicago.

    WHY? She has absolutely NO connection to this city whatsoever, and the fact that little boys and girls can stare up a giant woman’s undergarments not to mention the freaky freaks who will sleep drink and beat offff underneath it you can bet your azzz is quite appalling to me. And way way far from a prude believe you me.

    It’ s a celebrity worshiping culture gone mad. There’s not even a statue of a Mayor since most were criminals, or a president or a founder of this city or nation anything near the size of this gargantuan thing and I’ll top this rant off with a guess it was manufactured by a gay artist I’d bet anything.

    Well wouldn’t you know I looked him up and B I N G O…I KNEW IT!!! Seward Johnson, how appropriate……. it’s almost sewer – like work in a country that’s been turned into a sewer by the Hollywood sewer that spawned and killed this woman before 40/ What role models all the above mentioned ARE NOT.

    • jeff

      Why are on-line folk so hysterically judgmental and Puritanical? Shrinks say it’s projection . . . i.e. you’re lashing out at yourself, really, for all your perceived moral and social failings. I’d say give Marilyn a break, but, in reality, I think it’s yourselves that need to give yourselves a break

      • Nadelstich

        You don’t have to be a Puritan not to want to see it done on the kitchen table, or splayed out above you on Michigan Avenue. A more appropriate use for this tasteless monstrosity would be as a headstone at the grave of a Kennedy — any Kennedy, pick a Kennedy — with the inscription, “JFK, RFK, etc., etc. etc. slept here” scrawled on the panties..

  • Daisy

    Oh nice, now this extraordinary woman’s memory can be desecrated by any lout who feels entitled to act out in a lewd manner while filming himself on his cell phone. Figures it would happen in Chicago. We’re becoming a nation of Weiners.

  • sarah s.

    Why would anyone put this up? It truly disrespects the memory of Ms. Monroe and is an affront to us all. It is really ugly!

  • daninkansas

    It’s hideous.

  • John

    I vote for Sharon Stone in Basic instinct for the next statue

  • Porgie Tirebiter

    To be realistic, she should be getting a DP from the Kennedy brothers.

  • JohnBoy

    Ed Sullivan would say something like:

    “And now, I give you a really really really big, ahem, p-word!”

    This is just silly, folks.

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