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Shanzhai Marilyn lies face-down in a dump in China (via NBC News on Twitter)

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.

A man poses tastefully with Seward Johnson’s “Forever Marilyn” in Chicago (photo by John Picken Photography, via Flickr) (click to enlarge)

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.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

18 replies on “A 26-Foot Marilyn Monroe Sculpture Meets Its End in a Chinese Dump”

  1. We just got the exact thing shipped here in Hamilton, NJ…hope we didn’t pay a lot for it. Looks like their giving them away.

  2. The title should read 8 Meters, not 8 Foot. Unless that Chinese guy really is only 3 apples high!

  3. actually, looks like the Chinese version has several differences…dress, heels, face, tilt, hair.earring…

    1. I was wondering about many of these, but I find it impossible to tell based on the photos of the Chinese version lying down.

  4. Hasn’t anyone seen The Who’s movie of “Tommy?” Giant Marilyn in this pose was a major element in the scene with Eric Clapton. Credit where it is due, please. Why are there people who know nothing about history, art or otherwise, writing this content?

  5. Johnson uses East Asian foundries for all of his metal casting since the school/ apprentice program at the Johnson Atelier was shut down. The foundry at the Grounds for Sculpture sight only does modeling, mold,
    metal chasing, fabrication and paint. Though the picture makes it look
    like a different sculpture (which may well be true), there are multiple
    copies of Johnson’s Monroe out there. If this is “Forever Marilyn”,
    it’s possible that this was given to the foundry in China that cast it
    or it was a test that was painted by the workers in China (very
    unlikely). It is also possible that this isn’t a dump, but the lot of
    the foundry that cast the piece and the statue is merely sitting on the
    ground until being moved again somewhere else. Or, this could be the
    lot of the foundry and Marilyn has been relegated to the scrap which
    they use to cut the pure metal which they use for casting. In my
    experience– I worked at what was left of the Atelier for 3 years– the metal from these foundries is terribly impure.

  6. I was hoping it was the Johnson one. Perfect metaphor for the death of America’s supremacy on the world stage.

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