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Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend

April 28 - June 24, 2007


From April 28 to June 24, 2007 The Dayton Art Institute will present an exhibition and one-woman play on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend uses a wide range of artists and media to explore the public and private life of one of the world's most recognizable icons. Through the art of Andy Warhol, Allen Jones, Peter Blake, Richard Avedon, Bert Stern, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and others, this exhibition of nearly 250 photographs, prints, paintings, videos, and sculpture captures Marilyn's rise to stardom. Nearly 80 artists depict the late movie star in styles ranging from fashion photography to Pop Art.

"To this day, the public continues to have a fascination with Marilyn Monroe," said J. Bradford Tillson, interim director of The Dayton Art Institute. "This exhibition uses the art of photography, painting and sculpture to celebrate her legendary life. The diversity of the artists represented allows the visitor to relive all aspects of Marilyn's life, from the young ingenue to one of the most popular film stars of the 1950s."

Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend includes Tom Kelley's famous Red Velvet Pose for Playboy magazine, Douglas Kirkland's sensuous bed sheet shots, One Night with Marilyn, and Bert Stern's Here's to You, a photograph of Marilyn with champagne glass in hand, celebrating her entrée back into Hollywood.

Marilyn's most recognizable film moments are depicted, such as the famous subway grate scene with Tom Ewell in The Seven Year Itch, as photographed by Sam Shaw. Ernst Haas's pensive behind-the-scene shots of Marilyn in The Misfits are also displayed. Numerous contemporary artists, such as Andy Warhol and Mel Ramos, offer their own Marilyn interpretations.

"This exhibition is a must see for any fan of Marilyn Monroe," commented Tillson. "Fans who lived during Marilyn's lifetime will recall all of their favorite memories of her. Those who developed a fascination with her years after her death will gain new insights into Marilyn as both a person and a movie screen legend."

Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend was organized by Artoma in Hamburg, Germany and circulated by International Arts & Artists in Washington, DC. The exhibition in Dayton is sponsored by Steve R. Rauch, Inc.


A curator's peerspective


Marilyn Monroe defined an era. Her innocence, beauty, and sensuality captivated and fascinated generations of admirers eager to see the charismatic Hollywood starlet on the silver screen and on the cover of popular magazines. Following her tragic death in 1962, it became apparent that there was something beyond her extraordinary beauty and beguiling sexuality, a mystique that has continued to evolve to the present day and which is now an essential part of our cultural identity.
The Dayton Art Institute is pleased to present Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend. This traveling exhibition, which generated a "Marilyn fever" throughout Europe when it was exhibited in England, Spain, Turkey, and Finland, explores Monroe's exhilarating rise to stardom, her striking transformation from Norma Jean Baker into the celebrated icon, and her shocking death. Nearly 80 artists from the United States and abroad are included in this intriguing exhibition. Stylistically and thematically diverse, this exhibition provides an opportunity to reconsider Monroe's dynamic public persona, which was crafted during her lifetime and cultivated after her untimely death, as well as her own anxiety surrounding her private identity. This large exhibition, comprising nearly 250 photographs, prints, paintings, videos, and sculpture, is a fascinating and multi-dimensional portrait of Monroe the person and the celebrity.
Marilyn Monroe's attraction stems in part from her alluring beauty and sensuality. She was one of the most photographed women in history. Her image was captured by the most celebrated photographers of her day including Tom Kelley, Douglas Kirkland, and Bert Stern.
"I had nothing on but the radio"
This is how Monroe recalled the austere surroundings in which Kelley's (in)famous Red Velvet Photos were shot. In 1954, one image from this provocative series created a sensation, appearing in Playboy as the magazine's first centerfold. Sensuous images like these inspired other photographers including Douglas Kirkland. In his celebrated series One Night with Marilyn, the star bewitches the camera with her flirtatious personality and tantalizing state of undress, lying in bed covered only by a white sheet. Bert Stern was another photographer captivated by Monroe. In The Last Sitting, which was intended to celebrate the actress's entrée back into Hollywood in1962, Stern captures Monroe's joy for life in the well-known image Here's to You.
Monroe's most recognizable film moments are also exhibited including Sam Shaw's well-known photograph of the young star standing over a subway grate during the filming of The Seven Year Itch and Ernst Haas's pioneering photographs of Monroe on the set of The Misfits. Haas's spontaneous photographs reveal the tumultuousness and tediousness of life on the movie set. These highly personal images offer an alternative view of Monroe as a vulnerable and discontented woman, which differs significantly from the electrifying persona manufactured by Hollywood.
"I'm an artificial product"
This statement by Monroe, made during a 1960 interview for Marie Claire magazine, reveals the troubling side of her celebrity. Fame, an artificial creation, is a theme explored by artists such as Robert Indiana, Christian Blau, Mel Ramos, and Andy Warhol.
Warhol's series Marilyn Monroe (Marilyn) was published in 1967 by Factory Additions, a publishing arm Warhol established with art gallery dealer David Whitney. These vibrant, multi-colored screenprints based on Gene Korman's publicity shot for the film Niagara, made in 1953, are now iconic images, which were inspired by the film star's death in 1962. Monroe's vividly mass-produced prints present her as a commodity, a sobering and ominous metaphor for fame. Contemporary artist Christian Blau examines this dark side of celebrity with Overexposure, 2003. Blau ominously juxtaposes an eerie photograph of Norma Jean with the last photograph taken of Marilyn Monroe in the morgue. The work's title focuses on the disproportionate attention Monroe received in her lifetime, which many believe contributed to her premature death. The artists in this exhibition examine an ardent public's impulse to fulfill their own personal or societal needs through celebrity adulation. Monroe echoed this outlook saying, "People had a habit of looking at me as if I were some kind of mirror instead of a person."
No one has stimulated the collective imagination quite like Marilyn Monroe. A revered American icon and a beloved part of our cultural identity, she inspired some of the most significant contemporary artists, making Marilyn Monroe the most fragile and loveable legend of all.
-- by Laine Snyder, Assistant Curator of American and European Art , The Dayton Art Institute

Related lectures

The Image of Marilyn Monroe in Popular Culture
Thursday, May 24
7:00 p.m.
Jeffrey Brown, Professor of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University and consulting Curator of Contemporary Art at the Toledo Museum of Art, will address the enduring representations of Marilyn Monroe in the media and how the late actress has been symbolized as American culture's ideal form of female sexuality.
Reservations required; call (937) 223-5277, ext. 318.
Marilyn Monroe: Through the Photographer's Lens
Tuesday, June 5
6:00 p.m.
Join Alex Nyerges, former director of The Dayton Art Institute, as he discusses the many sides of Marilyn Monroe as revealed through the photographer's lens. One of the most photographed women of all time, Monroe seemed most at home in front of the camera. Examine the role of photographs in contributing to the mystique that was Marilyn Monroe and the diversity of the photographers who created them.
Reservations required; call (937) 223-5277, ext. 318.


(above: After Andy Warhol, Marilyn, published by Sunday B Morning, 1967, Screenprint, Artoma Collection, Hamburg © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/ARS, New York)


(above: Milton H. Greene, Marilyn Monroe, New York City, "Ballerina" sitting, 1954, Fine Art Inkjet printed on Designjet 5000PS UV printer made by Hewlett Packard on Albrecht Durer media manufactured by Hahnemuhle, Artoma Collection, Hamburg © 1994, Milton H. Greene Archives, Inc., www.archivesmhg.com)


(above: Bernard of Hollywood (Bruno Bernard), Marilyn posing for Niagara, Silver gelatin print, Artoma Collection, Hamburg © Bruno Bernard with kind permission of Susan Bernard)


(above: Bernard of Hollywood (Bruno Bernard), Norma Jeane - Pin-Up (Discovery Series), C-print, Artoma Collection, Hamburg © Bruno Bernard with kind permission of Susan Bernard)


(above: Bert Stern, "Here's to you" from "The Last Sitting," 1962, Colour print (Kodak Professional), edition 11/250, Artoma Collection, Hamburg © Bert Stern, 1982)


Douglas Kirkland, One Night with Marilyn, 17.11.1961 (2), Fine Art Inkjet printed on Designjet 5000PS UV printer made by Hewlett Packard on Albrecht Durer media manufactured by Hahnemuhle, Courtesy of the artist, Los Angeles © Douglas Kirkland

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