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After liking it hot in Palm Springs, Marilyn Monroe statue moving on

ArtArts and Culture

PALM SPRINGS -- She loomed over a bustling corner in downtown, a re-creation of Marilyn Monroe in that classic pose, standing 26 feet tall. The statue had been there for just under two years, but it had become such a draw that some came to think she'd be there forever.

But the statue — "Forever Marilyn," the work of sculptor Seward Johnson — is moving on.

"She will be, in my opinion, missed immensely," said Aftab Dada, chairman of PS Resorts, the collective of Palm Springs hotels responsible for bringing the statue here, setting her up on an empty corner along a strand of shops and restaurants. "It's like we are losing part of our family."

At the end of March, the statue — weighing some 34,000 pounds — will be disassembled into a half-dozen parts and shipped off to New Jersey. There she will join about 150 other works by Johnson on display in a 42-acre park through September.

The sculpture re-creates the famous scene from the 1955 movie "The Seven Year Itch" when Monroe's dress is blown up as she stands over a New York City subway grate. Johnson was known for his attention to detail, making his pieces as realistic as possible -- "Forever Marilyn" was no different.

He had to use 10 layers of hues with a matte finish just to match her skin tone.

The piece, which had been lent to the resort group to display, is owned by the Sculpture Foundation, a Santa Monica-based nonprofit organization to which Johnson donated his collection more than a decade ago. The foundation said its mission requires it to move its pieces around, allowing people around the world to experience them.

Already, locales worldwide have expressed interest in hosting Marilyn — Singapore, London, Miami and Rome, among them. She was in Chicago before coming to Palm Springs.

The local resort group and city officials have been involved in negotiations to buy the statue to make sure it comes back. The published price is reportedly $1.8 million. They believe Palm Springs is her home; that's where she belongs.

Since her installation, a constant stream of tourists have stood between her legs for a photograph, providing a boost to businesses surrounding her, as well as publicity for the city itself.

"It's been such a natural fit for her to be in Palm Springs," said Mayor Steve Pougnet.

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rick.rojas@latimes.com

Twitter: @rar

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