Installation of an enormous sculpture depicting Marilyn Monroe's iconic dress-flying pose from the 1955 romantic comedy "The Seven Year Itch" began Wednesday on city-owned land just east of the Palm Springs Art Museum.
PS Resorts, the nonprofit tourism organization that owns "Forever Marilyn," which was previously on display in the city for several years, has scheduled a public unveiling ceremony for June 20 at 7 p.m. The organization purchased the 26-foot-tall sculpture from Seward Johnson Atelier in February for $1 million, plus installation costs.
It arrived in several pieces, which will require a 60-ton crane to hoist into place at the corner of Museum Way and Belardo Road.
A lawsuit by a group of local residents threatens to thwart the effort to keep it there. The Committee to Relocate Marilyn sued the city of Palm Springs for allowing the statue to be placed in downtown, alleging the city violated various municipal and state codes in agreeing to close Museum Way during the statue's stay.
A status hearing in that case is scheduled for July 20. In April, a judge denied a motion by the plaintiff that sought to block the statue's placement.
The Palm Springs City Council approved a location agreement with PS Resorts in December. The agreement includes a term of up to three years and requires periodic updates back to the council.
PS Resorts Chairman Aftab Dada previously said he wanted to see the statue remain at the Museum Way location permanently. After two years, the statue's local economic impact will be measured by an outside firm, he said.
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The 17-ton statue crafted of steel and aluminum was first unveiled in Chicago in 2011 before moving to the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs in 2012, where it was on display for about two years.
The statue's return has drawn the ire of some residents, both for its possible infringement of views of the surrounding natural landscape and on allegations that the statue is sexist and inappropriate.
Dada countered that the statue is an economic powerhouse that brought the city millions of dollars of free publicity during its first rendezvous in Palm Springs. Dada said "Forever Marilyn" helped jumpstart the local economy during the Great Recession, and he hopes the statue can work that same magic again amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"She really put Palm Springs on the worldwide map," he said. "She is definitely a huge draw and an unbelievable magnet to tourists."
Then-City Manager David Ready previously said the statue was a "tourism phenomenon" during its first appearance in the city.
"Forever Marilyn" was designed by artist Seward Johnson, who died in March 2020.
The humongous sculpture recreates the moment in "The Seven Year Itch" where Monroe's white dress surges up toward her waist as she stands on a windy Manhattan subway grate.
"Marilyn has come to represent beauty, and the white dress blowing up around her is a type of teasing sensuality," Johnson once said. "There is something about her pose, the exuberance for life without inhibition, it expresses an uninhibited sense of our own vibrancy."