Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe

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Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe

78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
July 19th, 2008 - September 21st, 2008

Michigan Ave/Downtown
Mon-Thu 9-7; Fri-Sat 9-6; Sun 10-6

de Felipe En El Jardin de Hollywood

July 19 - September 21
Exhibit Hall and Sidney R. Yates Gallery
Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph St.

Marilyn Monroe is one of the most famous and adored icons of the 20th century. Like no other Hollywood star, her blonde bombshell image has stamped art and pop culture and stimulated the collective imagination. The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is pleased to announce Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe, an exhibition that captures the spark, sex appeal, and sensation that was Marilyn through the art of Andy Warhol, Allen Jones, Peter Blake, Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and many others.

Assembling the art that documented and celebrated America’s favorite sex symbol and one of the world’s most famous and intriguing women, the exhibit – approximately 300 works, including photographs, paintings, works on paper, graphics, videos, sculptures, and objects – trace not only Norma Jeane as she is built up to the diva and sex goddess Marilyn Monroe, but also reveal the film star’s fragility as a contradictory heroine moving between glamour and tragedy. In styles from fashion photography to Pop art, the more than 80 artists represented in the exhibition have drawn inspiration from Marilyn, creating works that comment on the instantly recognizable bombshell figure, platinum hair, and dazzling smile.

Marilyn’s flirtations with the camera became a lifelong affair for her. The exhibition traces her transformation through Bernard of Hollywood’s photographs of the 19-year-old Norma Jeane before her Hollywood career began, Tom Kelley’s renowned Red Velvet Pose for Playboy, Douglas Kirkland’s sensuous bed sheet photographs, and Bert Stern’s poignant The Last Sitting. The exhibition also depicts recognizable moments in Monroe’s film career, such as the famous subway grate scene with Thomas Ewell in The Seven Year Itch by Sam Shaw, as well as the pensive behind-the-scenes shots of The Misfits by Ernst Haas. Even beyond their documentary and artistic value, these photographs have become more representative of the present image of Marilyn Monroe than her films.

In addition to the photographs, artists such as Werner Berges, Mel Ramos, and Antonio de Felipe offer their unique interpretations of Marilyn. These images demonstrate how art can perpetuate myths. Some, like Andy Warhol, through his well-known screenprints, helped to elevate her to a brand name.

Viewing hours for Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe and other exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center are Mondays through Thursdays, 8 am to 7 pm; Fridays, 8 am to 6 pm; Saturdays 9 am to 6 pm and Sundays, 10 am to 6 pm. The Chicago Cultural Center is closed on holidays.

Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe was curated by Artoma, Hamburg, Germany and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington D.C. The exhibition traveled to six countries in Europe prior to its U.S. tour. It is accompanied by a 144-page hardcover catalog, available at the Chicago Cultural Center Store.  

Related Events

The public is invited to a gallery talk with exhibition curator Alexander Sairally on Thursday, July 17, at 5 pm, and to a lecture by Sairally titled “Norma Jeane vs. Marilyn Monroe” on Sunday, July 20, at 12:15 pm. Additional gallery talks by Chicago Cultural Center curators will be offered on Thursdays, July 31, August 21, and September 11, each at 12:15 pm. Also in conjunction with this exhibition, the Marilyn Monroe films “How to Marry a Millionaire” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” will be shown respectively on Saturday, July 26, at 2 pm, and Saturday, August 2, at 2 pm, in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater.

Docent-led private tours are available for groups of ten to twenty people, based on availability. Tours are free but reservations are required and must be made one week in advance. For reservations or more information, call 312-744-6630.

In conjunction with the exhibition Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe, the Department of Cultural Affair’s Project Onward will present Goodbye Norma Jeans: Project Onward Remembers Marilyn Monroe, a series of paintings and drawings depicting the iconic celebrity. George Zuniga, Blake Lenoir, Kathleen Buchek, and other mainstays of the studio offer their own interpretations of Monroe’s life and times, with inspiration ranging from her sexy photo spreads, to her glamorous public life, to darker evocations of her loneliness and tragic demise. Project Onward is the Department of Cultural Affair’s studio program for artists with special needs. The program supplies work space, art materials, and professional guidance to over 30 adult artists living with developmental and mental disabilities.

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs: 312.744.6630