Marilyn Monroe set to return to Palm Springs as 26-foot-tall statue

Preparations continue for the arrival in Palm Springs of “Forever Marilyn,” the 26-foot-tall statue that became a controversial fixture on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

The statue will be removed from its current location beginning Monday. The 34,000-pound sculpture, which costs about $40,000 to transport, will be trucked across the country and arrive in Palm Springs on May 14. It will take a few days -- and a few cranes -- to reassemble it at the corner of Palm Canyon and Tahquitz Canyon Way, where it will reside until June 2013.

“She’s become kind of a tourism magnet there and that’s what we as an organization are interested in,” said Tim Ellis, general manager Palm Mountain Resort and board member of the P.S. Resorts, the group spearheading the project.

The sculpture by Seward Johnson, the 80-year-old artist and Johnson & Johnson heir who’s known for casting famous images into giant sculptures, re-creates the scene from the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch” in which a drafty New York subway grate blows the sex symbol’s skirt well above her knees.

The piece hasn’t received the warmest reception from the Windy City since its July debut, and was the target of more than a few vandals and critics. Some called the undergarment-baring pose sexist, while dubbed “Forever Marilyn” the No. 1 piece of bad public art -- ahead of a Bewitched statue in Salem, Mass.

Several cities lined up to host the massive Marilyn when her Chicago residency wrapped, perhaps because August marks the 50th anniversary of the Hollywood legend’s death.

“We received many requests as far away as Tokyo and Madrid and cities in Brazil, and we really felt that Palm Springs has a special connection to Marilyn because it is the legendary play land for Hollywood,” said Paula Stoeke, the director and curator of the Sculpture Foundation, an organization funded and run by Johnson with offices in Santa Monica.