‘Forever Marilyn’ statue will return to Palm Springs — forever

'Forever Marilyn'
For two years, the 26-foot statue of Marilyn Monroe in Palm Springs drew locals and tourists.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Palm Springs’ on-again, off-again love affair with Marilyn Monroe — or, at least, the 26-foot statue of her — has taken a giant step forward. The Seward Johnson sculpture that visited the city from 2012 to 2014 will be installed permanently at an upcoming downtown park next year.

P.S. Resorts, a group of hotels aimed at promoting tourism, as well as city and tourism officials worked to bring the statue back to the city. Construction of the new park will begin soon, and the sculpture will be installed near the Palm Springs Art Museum, Randy Garner of Visit Palm Springs wrote in an email Monday.

For the record:

10:20 a.m. Oct. 1, 2019An earlier version of the story incorrectly said the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation worked on having the statue return to Palm Springs. The organization opposed placement of the statue.

Preliminary plans for the statue were announced last week. “Marilyn has become somewhat of an icon for Palm Springs, and some love her and some not so much, but at the end of the day she’s become part of our brand,” City Councilman J.R. Roberts told the Desert Sun newspaper. The sculpture will travel from Johnson’s studio on the East Coast and across the country on a flatbed truck.

"Forever Marilyn" in Palm Springs
Palm Springs held a goodbye party for “Forever Marilyn” in 2014.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The price of the sculpture was not disclosed, according to a P.S. Resorts news release.

The larger-than-life “Forever Marilyn” sculpture depicts the actress in an iconic billowing-dress-in-the-air scene from the 1955 film “The Seven Year Itch.” The statue first arrived in Palm Springs courtesy of the Sculpture Foundation, an organization Johnson created to promote public art. After it left Palm Springs, it toured other cities. During its run, the statue evoked strong opinions, from those who loved the Insta-friendly giant and those who hated it.

L.A. Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote in 2014: “Good news out of Palm Springs this week: Work has begun on dismantling ‘Forever Marilyn,’ the grotesque colossus fabricated with typical ham-handedness by sculptor J. Seward Johnson, which has been marring an already vacant lot at a prominent downtown corner for the last two years.”

Other Johnson sculptures have become California landmarks. “Unconditional Surrender,” memorializing the end of World War II — the famous pose of the sailor and nurse kissing — was lent to San Diego from 2007 to 2012. The statue was such a hit that the USS Midway Museum and a local architect raised more than $1 million to have a bronze copy made to replace the original at Tuna Harbor Park in the city’s port. It was installed in 2013.