Category Archives: Art and Photography

Sue Dunkley’s Pop Art Marilyn

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Marilyn inspired many within the Pop Art movement, including Andy Warhol, Richard Hamilton and Pauline Boty. Now another British artist of this period has come to light, with a recent exhibition and a profile in The Guardian. Sue Dunkley produced at least two paintings based on photographer John Bryson‘s 1960 cover story for Life magazine, and the private drama that unfolded between the Millers and the Montands during filming of Let’s Make Love.

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“This substantial series of Pop Art paintings on large canvas have recently been rediscovered in Dunkley’s London studio by her daughter and brother. The works in the series were produced between 1968 and 1972, and notably take as their subject the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, the female body, and human relationships, often touched by violence and betrayal. A large number of pastel studies for these works and independent sketches have also been discovered, many of which explore intimacy, sexuality and the role of women in changing eras.

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These works are often populated by numerous faces and figures, sometimes difficult to discern and placed in uneasy dialogue with one another. Dunkley herself often appears in the works, looking on or departing, merging the political and personal in both intimate and yet culturally significant works of art. These early works employ the bold and graphic language of Pop Art, referencing familiar media imagery and fashion photography. Recognisable images such as Ethel Kennedy’s screaming face and outstretched hand following Robert Kennedy’s assassination alongside images of Marylin Monroe recur, as if ghosts on the edge of these significant events and moments in history. Dunkley returned to Monroe often, fascinated by her seemingly irreconcilable sexuality and vulnerability, the impossible expectations placed on her to be both child and sex symbol.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Happy Birthday Mr President

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The ‘nude’ beaded dress worn by Marilyn as she sang ‘Happy Birthday, Mr President’ to John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 will be auctioned at Julien’s next month, with bids starting at $1 million. There are also several other items on offer from the historic gala, including Marilyn’s own ticket and program.

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Legendary costume designer Bob Mackie began his career as a sketch artist for Jean Louis, and his drawings of Marilyn’s dress are also up for sale. At the time of his first attempt, Mackie didn’t know who the dress was for (although he was already working with Jean Louis on Marilyn’s costumes for Something’s Got to Give.)

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Five colour photos from the collection of Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, and an eight-minute film comprised of clips from the night’s entertainment, take us back to the events of 1962.

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Illustrator LeRoy Neiman captured Marilyn’s unforgettable performance in art.

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UPDATE: The ‘Happy Birthday’ dress was sold at Julien’s for $4.8 million on November 16, 2016, making it the most lucrative dress in auction history. The buyer is Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum, who plan to showcase the dress in future exhibitions. Read a full report from Scott Fortner on his MM Collection Blog.

Marilyn Raises Millions in Bendigo

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Australia’s unofficial ‘year of Marilyn’ has been a resounding success, as the Bendigo Advertiser reports.

“Bendigo Art Gallery’s Marilyn Monroe exhibition brought more than $13 million into the region, Victorian government modelling has shown.

Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan announced on Wednesday $13.2 million in economic impact for Bendigo was derived from the four-month exhibition, exceeding the $11.2 million benefit forecast before the show opened.

‘We knew Marilyn Monroe would be a showstopper and it was,’ she said. ‘It demonstrates [the gallery] is a facility that brings many jobs, a significant amount of funds flowing into the Bendigo community.’

More than 140,000 visitors attended the ticketed exhibition in Bendigo between March and July this year. Almost half of those people were from Melbourne, travelling to central Victoria specifically to see the Hollywood-themed show.

The total cost of showing the Marilyn Monroe exhibition is unclear.

Ms Allan also said the strength of Bendigo’s gallery could inspire young people to choose an artistic career path, citing ‘strong’ art and design programs at La Trobe University as yet more evidence of the region’s creative strength.

But it was not only the Bendigo economy that benefitted from the blockbuster exhibition; the gallery’s curatorial manager Tansy Curtin said Marilyn challenged her institution artistically.

‘We went from working with fine art to working with contemporary culture.’

These new strings in her institution’s bow meant it was ‘re-defining’ what it meant to be a regional art gallery, no longer catering solely to a local audience but to national and international art-lovers as well.

Conservation work carried out during the exhibition also meant the gallery was ensure the longevity of Marilyn Monroe artifacts.

Because many of the items exhibited in the gallery were not normally showcased in a curated setting – many were kept inside the houses of their collectors before coming to Bendigo – Ms Curtin said many were returned to their owners in a better condition than when they arrived, having undergone conservation while housed in central Victoria.”

Marilyn Statue Missing in Auckland

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A statue of Marilyn has been stolen in New Zealand, as Meghan Lawrence reports for Auckland Now. (Marilyn-related art thefts are not uncommon: an English  statue was stolen in 2011, while a Canadian mural vanished in 2014, and was found in a dumpster two weeks later. Sadly, it was stolen again in 2015.)

“Farm Cove’s iconic mascot has gone walkabout.

A six-foot tall (1.82m) statue of Marilyn Monroe was taken from a Fisher Parade residence in East Auckland on the night of October 13.

Maria Ross says the statue is part of a collection of rock n’ roll and pop-culture memorabilia that decorates her home. Ross purchased the statue of Marilyn Monroe a year ago, after she had been looking to add the American actress to her collection for a number of years.

She has stood in the front garden ever since, for passersby to bask in her glory.

‘She was loved and admired by all. Some more than others,’ she says. ‘People who drive past will stop and take photos with her. It’s so cool because you get to know the neighbourhood. She is just famous in Farm Cove.’

Ross says she’s ‘really gutted’ that the statue was stolen, but there would be no questions asked if she was returned.

‘I do believe someone is going to see her. There is not a lot of them in New Zealand. I think there is only one other, so it will stand out like a sore thumb.’

‘It would just be so awesome if she was returned.'”

More Marilyn Book News

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First published in 2013 (and reviewed here), Marilyn: Her Life in  Pictures, edited by Martin Howard and Oliver Northcliffe, is now available in French.

Two academic studies make significant references to Marilyn this autumn. From Reverence to Rape, Molly Haskell’s feminist critique of Hollywood, is now in its third edition. Haskell writes well about how typecasting hindered Marilyn’s career. In Modern Acting: The Lost Chapter of American Film and Theatre, Cynthia Baron considers the influence of the Method on her performances. Adrienne L. McLean also mentions Marilyn at the peak of her glamour in Costume, Makeup and Hair, the latest in Rutgers’ Behind the Silver Screen series.

On a lighter note, Marilyn is among the bevy of bombshells featured in Richard Koper’s Fifties Blondes, and the stories behind some of herfavourite Hollywood haunts are revealed in L.A.’s Legendary Restaurants, a coffee-table tome by George Gerry.

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And finally… I Met Marilyn , a new collection of interviews with friends and associates by Neil Sean, is out in paperback and via Kindle. Here’s a synopsis:

“Having been a fan of the legend that is Marilyn Monroe since an early age, it seemed whoever I interviewed had either met / worked and known something about her during my journalistic career. As the years went on I noticed this even more, to the point I was lucky enough to meet and interview some very famous people whom have not had their ‘Marilyn’ stories told before. I started with a trusty cassette player, which along the way had me meeting the likes of Sir Lawrence Oliver, Charlton Heston and even Sir Norman Wisdom. What is fascinating when reviewing the tapes – along with never broadcast interviews with Tony Curtis, Mickey Rooney and Debbie Reynolds to name just a few – is how revealing the whole conversations are. I urge everyone to take a look at the book if you’re a true Marilyn fan, as it will give you a rare insight into her final months: and as Ricci Martin (Son of Dean) who met Marilyn many times told me, ‘it’s the biggest story in the world of showbiz ever and yes I was party to it in many ways which is frightening.'”

 

Inge Morath on Miller, Huston and Marilyn

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Inge Morath: On Style is a new book focusing on the late photographer’s work in fashion and film. Her images of Marilyn on the set of The Misfits are elegant and tender, and the knowledge that Morath would become Arthur Miller’s third wife adds a note of poignancy. Author Justine Picardie writes about Inge’s work with director John Huston, and her later encounter with Arthur which led to a long and happy marriage, in a blog post for the Magnum website.

“This was also the period when Morath first started working with the director John Huston; one of her earliest assignments was to photograph the stills for his film Moulin Rouge in London in 1952, which was to be the start of a lifelong friendship … Huston would later describe Morath as ‘a high priestess of photography,’ a woman with ‘the rare ability to penetrate beyond surfaces and reveal what makes her subject tick.’

Morath’s friendship with Huston was to play an important part in her personal life, as well as her career. In 1959, she travelled to Mexico to photograph the making of his film The Unforgiven … The following year, Morath visited the set of another of Huston’s films, The Misfits, accompanied by her Magnum colleague, Henri Cartier-Bresson.

When Morath was subsequently asked by the New York Times about the experience of photo- graphing Monroe, she described the actress as ‘kind of shimmery. But there was also this sadness underneath. A poetry of unhappiness. That was what was so mesmerizing, the twofold thing you got, the unhappiness always underneath the joy and the glamour…that was the poetry.’ In the same interview, Morath added one more intriguing fragment to the story. ‘I once dreamt we both danced together, Marilyn and I. It was beautiful.'”

‘Forever Marilyn’ Set For Palm Springs Return

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In August, it was rumoured that Seward Johnson’s giant sculpture, ‘Forever Marilyn’, would be making a permanent return to Palm Springs. This was recently confirmed by the Desert Sun: however, plans for a temporary home at the Spa Casino as soon as November have been scrapped, and the statue will now take up residence at a new downtown park, close to the city’s art museum and due for completion sometime next year.

Kirkland Exhibit in Perth, Australia

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Douglas Kirkland’s touring exhibit, Icons and Idols, features four images from his 1961 photo shoot with Marilyn among 22 shots spanning his long career. It is on display until November 13 at There Is, a gallery in the Northbridge district of Perth, Australia. In an interview with Perth Now, Kirkland reflected on his life as a celebrity photographer.

“He says the entertainment industry has changed ‘like night and day’ from the beginning of his career.

‘This is a different, a vastly different star system today,’ Kirkland says. ‘Social media and the internet have produced more celebrities than at the beginning of my career and I’ve been doing this since the beginning of the ’60s.’

‘People like Elizabeth Taylor and Monroe were the giants then. Today you can only think of Angelina Jolie and another 20 or 30 with staying power but they are not as big as, say, Elizabeth was or Marilyn.’

‘Now, business is money driven, but the access to celebrities is much more limited and controlled. The people who work with stars want to say where they will be and when the photo will be used.'”

Speaking with Australian Vogue, Kirkland reflected on how his images of Marilyn have become iconic since they were taken 55 years ago.

What was it like to photograph Marilyn?

It was thrilling, frightening and exhilarating. I was very young and frankly I wondered if I was in over my head. The session was charged with sexual energy and the results all went into the camera, as the images can tell.

Were you expecting the reaction to the photograph that it received?

Actually the reaction to the Marilyn Monroe photographs came much later. I had no idea at the time that these would become some of my most iconic and sought after images.

Elizabeth Taylor, however, was the one who was instrumental in establishing my career as a celebrity photographer. I looked into her violet eyes and said to her ‘I am new with this magazine, could you imagine what it would mean to me if you gave me an opportunity to photograph you?’ She thought for a moment and nodded as said ‘Come tomorrow night at 7’oclock’.

She had not been seen for a while and the images from the cover session for Look magazine in 1961 went worldwide and catapulted my career.”

Marilyn: ‘Loved By You’ in Provence

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The exhibition Marilyn: I Wanna Be Loved by You opens on October 22 at the Hôtel de Caumont – Centre d’Art in Aix-en-Provence, France. Featuring works by Sam Shaw, Andre de Dienes, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, Eve Arnold, Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon, Ed Feingersh, George Barris, Bert Stern, and others.