News sites have been abuzz today with a few fantastic photographs that show a giant sculpture of Marilyn Monroe face-down in the dirt at a Chinese dump. The sculpture was apparently thrown out for unknown reasons after being displayed outside a business center in Guigang, China, for only six months. The juxtaposition of the glamorous, oversized movie star — her white dress, red lips, sexy pose (taken from that famous scene in the film The Seven Year Itch) — in such squalid surroundings is certainly striking.
But what may be more striking is the statue’s uncanny similarity to another giant likeness of Monroe, this one called “Forever Marilyn” and created by artist Seward Johnson. Both sculptures feature the movie star in the same outfit and pose, both measure roughly eight meters (26 feet) tall, and both are made out of stainless steel (the Johnson also uses aluminum; it’s unclear if the Chinese version does). Yet the Marilyn in the Guigang dump was “was made by several Chinese artists over two years,” according to NBC; “Forever Marilyn,” meanwhile, was made by Johnson, unveiled in 2011 in Palm Springs, California, and is currently on view at the New Jersey sculpture park Grounds for Sculpture as part of Johnson’s retrospective (we called to confirm; it is indeed there).
Did the unnamed Chinese artists (or their commissioner) copy Johnson — and then mysteriously throw their eight-meter knockoff in the trash? (Upon close inspection of this Reuters photo, Chinese Marilyn’s heels look shorter and thicker than the ones Johnson sculpted.) Does Johnson know about shanzhai Marilyn? Is Marilyn Monroe the new rubber duckie? So many questions. So much intrigue. So little time.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.