Marilyn Monroe Visits Chicago: Crowd Pleaser or Crowd Teaser?

By Kathryn H. Anthony and Mae Al-Ansari.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“Forever Marilyn” is a controversial sculpture portraying actress Marilyn Monroe in her famous subway grate pose from Billy Wilder’s landmark 1955 film, The Seven Year Itch. Designed by artist Seward Johnson, the statue was unveiled at Pioneer Court along Chicago’s busy Magnificent Mile on July 15, 2011. It remained there on display until May 7, 2012. The artwork features spike-heeled Marilyn in her ivory-colored windblown dress, exposing her laced underwear and whipping up a storm among Chicago’s art community, art critics, and feminists. This article examines the “Forever Marilyn” sculpture in light of gender issues in design, comparing reactions of critics with interviews and behavioral observations of visitors. The vast majority of the 216 visitors surveyed had a highly favorable reaction to Forever Marilyn. Behavioral observations revealed that many visitors unleashed both their masculinity and femininity while posing for photos with Marilyn.

Keywords: Marilyn Monroe, Chicago

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.125-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.549MB).

Prof. Kathryn H. Anthony

ACSA Distinguished Professor, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

Kathryn H. Anthony, Ph.D. is a Professor in the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its longest serving female faculty member. She holds the lifetime title of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) Distinguished Professor. She is the author of three books, Design Juries on Trial: The Renaissance of the Design Studio; Designing for Diversity: Gender, Race and Ethnicity in the Architectural Profession; Running for Our Lives: An Odyssey with Cancer, and over 100 publications. Marilyn Monroe’s famous film, The Seven Year Itch, plays an important role in Professor Anthony’s personal history. Her parents, Harry and Anne Anthony, were watching this film at a New York City movie theater when her mother first experienced sharp labor pains. Kathryn was born the next day.

Mae Al-Ansari

Ph.D. Student in Architecture, School of Architecture & Interior Design (SAID), University of Cincinnati (UC), Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Mae Al-Ansari received her B.Arch with Honors from Kuwait University in 2006. She was a Project Architect in the Design Department of the Construction Projects Sector at the Ministry of Public Works in Kuwait from 2006 to 2009. With a graduate scholarship from Kuwait University, she went on to earn the M.S.Arch from the University of Cincinnati in 2011, and was briefly a graduate student in Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she was awarded the 2012 Natalie Alpert Prize for best paper. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Architecture at the University of Cincinnati’s School of Architecture and Interior Design. Ms. Al-Ansari is interested in the intersections of architecture, gender, tectonics, and materiality.