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Marilyn Monroe Sculpture Drawing Controversy On Mag Mile

Updated 7/15/2011 at 4:00 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The long-awaited 26-foot sculpture of Marilyn Monroe was unveiled on the Magnificent Mile Friday morning, amid some controversy about its risqué appearance.

The three-part piece sculpture by artist Seward Johnson was unveiled in Pioneer Court alongside Tribune Tower.

It depicts Monroe as she appeared in an iconic scene in the 1955 movie "The Seven Year Itch," where her dress goes flying up as she stands over a New York subway grate, leaving her underwear exposed.

One by one, group by group, admirers climbed onto the fake subway grate to take photos with the oversize Marilyn.

"Come on, what is it like, 25 to 30 feet tall? It's outrageous," Scott Simonson said while posing for a picture. "It's really cool. I love it."

Ruth Soil says she's a teeny bit offended.

"Trying to live up to this image killed her," she told CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez. "I don't know what the message is. I would have liked to see a more serious image of a woman instead of with her skirt blowing and everyone looking up her dress."

The artists told CBS 2 the statue is intended to celebrate everything Marilyn stood for. That's what art is supposed to do, he said.

The sculpture was built in a studio in New Jersey and brought to Chicago.  It is aluminum from the waist up, but below the waist she's a woman of steel. That's because so much is resting on those spike heels.

Pioneer Court has previously hosted sculptures depicting Shakespeare's "King Lear" Grant Wood's "American Gothic."

Melissa Farrell of Zeller Realty Group told WBBM Newsradio 780 earlier this week that the 26-foot sculpture will be quite the attraction.

"We are installing a large scale public artwork. It's very visible to the public and it becomes a tourist attraction. People come to Chicago to see it," Farrell said.

In his Perspective Thursday night, CBS 2's Walter Jacobson said the sculpture will be a welcome addition to the Mag Mile.

"So we did not get the Olympics, but we have Ms. Monroe, keeping us on top of the outdoor world, and just when we need it, a smile on that mile," he said.

But Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich gave the sculpture a scathing review. She called it "as tawdry as a peep show," and complained about the men walking by who were seen "shooting photos of her crotch while one stuck out his tongue to mime a lick."

"The original image (from 'The Seven Year Itch') is coy," Schmich wrote. "Marilyn on the Mag Mile is crude."

But fans and foes alike will have to get used to the sculpture. It will be towering over Michigan Avenue through next spring.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Mike Krauser reports


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