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'Forever Marilyn' Monroe statue in Palm Springs to be dismantled

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After a two-year stay, Marilyn Monroe is saying farewell to Palm Springs.

"Forever Marilyn," the three-story-tall sculpture by artist Seward Johnson, will be dismantled this week so that the leggy tourist attraction can be shipped to its next location, the Grounds for Sculpture in central New Jersey.

But there is already talk of bringing the blond bombshell back to Palm Springs -- permanently. Some local leaders believe the artwork embodies the city's glamorous history, and they want to purchase it.

"We are determined to bring Marilyn back to us 'forever.'  It is where she belongs," said 
Aftab Dada, chairman of PS Resorts, a local tourism organization that helped to pay for the sculpture's visit.

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He is working with the city on the possible acquisition of the artwork, he said. The Sculpture Foundation, the Santa Monica organization that owns the piece, said it is considering selling the work.

The Grounds for Sculpture is hosting a retrospective of Johnson's art beginning May 4. The exhibition will feature 150 works by the artist -- including "Forever Marilyn" -- that will be on view in three indoor galleries as well as outdoors on the 42-acre campus.

The official de-installation of "Forever Marilyn" in Palm Springs is scheduled to begin Monday, but "the most visually exciting moments will be on Tuesday," said Paula Stoeke, director and curator of the Sculpture Foundation.

In 2000, Johnson -- a member of the Johnson & Johnson family -- gifted his lifetime body of work to the foundation. The original loan to Palm Springs was for one year, but the sculpture's stay was extended.

The Monroe sculpture, which is made of stainless steel and aluminum and weighs 17 tons, will be shipped to New Jersey on a flatbed truck. Travelers on the highway will be able to see her because the head and torso will be upright, Stoeke said. The artwork is expected to arrive in New Jersey around April 7.

"Forever Marilyn" was unveiled to the public in 2011 on Chicago's Michigan Avenue. The 26-foot-tall sculpture, which depicts Monroe in her famous pose from the 1955 Billy Wilder movie "The Seven-Year Itch," moved to Palm Springs in May 2012. 

The sculpture is downtown at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way. In recent days, throngs of tourists and locals have crowded the sculpture to say their goodbyes.

On Thursday, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet spoke at an evening ceremony honoring the artwork. Actress Carol Channing was among the attendees.

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