Marilyn’s Prayer Book Heads to Auction

A Jewish daily prayer-book acquired by Marilyn at the time of her 1956 marriage to Arthur Miller will be auctioned at William Doyle Galleries of New York as part of their Rare Books, Autographs & Maps sale on Tuesday, November 7. The book, which numbers some 648 pages, is described as ‘quite worn’ and includes a few notations in pencil, apparently by Marilyn herself. It was originally sold at Christie’s in 1999. The estimated price this time around is $4,000-$6,000. For more information on Marilyn’s conversion, read this excellent article by Simone Esther.

Also featured in the auction is a postcard reproduction of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn, signed by the artist.

UPDATE:  The Warhol postcard sold for $1,250, but Marilyn’s prayer-book went unsold.

Elle Fanning Goes ‘InStyle’ With Marilyn

19 year-old actress Elle Fanning makes no secret of her love for Marilyn – so it was no surprise to see her paying homage to her idol in a Warhol-inspired Versace gown last night at the InStyle Awards where she accepted a Breakthrough Style prize, as People reports.

“Fanning hit the carpet wearing a bright multicolored pop art gown from Versace’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection featuring renderings of Andy Warhol’s iconic Marilyn Monroe painting and crystal accents at the top of the bodice.

The star admitted the ensemble was ‘a bit unusual for me,’ but that didn’t stop her from knowing right away it was the perfect look for the occasion after seeing it on the runway at Milan Fashion Week.

‘This was kind of a no-brainer, I must say. [When I saw it] I was like, I have to wear this,’ Fanning said. ‘It has Marilyn Monroe on it and I’m obsessed with her. It’s Halloween soon, so I was kind of also doubling as Barbie.'”

Versace Revisits the Marilyn Dress

The latest Versace collection, which hit the catwalk in Milan this week, is nostalgic in more ways than one, as Vogue reports. Marking the 20th anniversary of Gianni Versace’s death, this ‘homage collection’ from his sister and successor, Donatella Versace, also reinvents one of his most iconic designs. The ‘Marilyn dress’ that supermodel Naomi Campbell first wore on the catwalk in 1991, as part of the ’92 collection (shown above left) makes a notable comeback (see right.) Based on the infamous Pop Art screen-prints by Andy Warhol, and also featuring James Dean, the much-imitated Marilyn dress epitomises the Versace brand’s postmodern fusion of glamour and excess, and the original now resides in New York’s Met Museum.

Another of Versace’s Marilyn-inspired designs, then and now
Versace’s Marilyn (and James Dean), from the Spring 2018 collection

Knowledge Bennett’s Pop Art Marilyn

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Orange is the New Black is not just a TV prison drama, but also the title of Los Angeles-based artist Knowledge Bennett’s first solo exhibit in New York, tracing the history of race in modern America through a Pop Art perspective. The show includes a section devoted to Marilyn, Good Girl Gone Bad (also the title of an album by Rihanna, who is featured elsewhere.)

Bennett’s portraits of Marilyn pay homage to Andy Warhol, but crucially they add a sharp political edge to the ‘gangsta’ images of MM that adorn T-shirt stalls across the globe. The artist spoke about why he chose to depict Marilyn this way in an interview with Art ON!

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“Quite often I seek to alter popular images in a very minimal way to tell a very different story. With my Marilyn Monroe series Good Girl Gone Bad, I simply added a tied bandana scarf around her head to make a statement of defiance and courage.

While researching the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s, I was shocked to learn of Marilyn Monroe’s involvement and influence in helping to break the color barrier (in the entertainment industry) which existed during these times.

I developed a newfound respect for her and her contributions to society at large. To learn that this woman, who was mostly known only as a major film star and sex symbol, had the balls and compassion for others to go out on a limb and make this happen is something worth acknowledging.”

Last Chance for ‘Warhol Avedon’ in London

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The Warhol Avedon exhibit, which opened in February at London’s Gagosian, will close on April 23, and Hazel Rowland has reviewed it for the Apollo magazine blog – with specific reference to Warhol and Avedon’s images of Marilyn.

“The similarities between photographer Richard Avedon and artist Andy Warhol are almost uncanny. Both came from modest American backgrounds, both had substantial commercial success working in New York in the 1940s, and both then went on to develop their own distinctive artistic styles away from the commercial world in the 1960s. They treated similar subjects too: both captured the influential and the famous, and took an interest, often from a cynical standpoint, in the world of celebrity…

This is developed further in Warhol’s Four Marilyns (1979­–86), a set of silkscreened portraits depicting Marilyn Monroe: Warhol became obsessed with portraying the star following her suicide in 1962. The use of repetition here is not only representative of Warhol’s work – the artist played with notions of seriality throughout his career – but of Pop art more generally, which often drew on images of mass production. This fascination with Monroe emphasises Warhol’s cynical view towards the superficiality of celebrity. He robs her face of all colour, leaving instead a black and white, ghostly image, with only the essence of Monroe’s facial features remaining.

Avedon’s portrayal of the star is markedly different, however. His 1957 photograph of Monroe betrays the photographer’s greater – and perhaps more conventional – desire to convey the sitter’s inner nature. Monroe is all dolled-up and wearing a shimmering dress, yet Avedon captures her at a moment when she is off-guard. She looks subdued and inward: here is perhaps a flicker of what lies beneath this endlessly performing star.”

When Warhol’s Marilyn Isn’t All It Seems

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As most art lovers will know, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn was created – and endlessly reproduced – after her death in 1962, from a publicity still by Frank Powolny. Despite all outward appearances, however, the image shown above is not a Warhol but a 1965 ‘remake’ by the artist Elaine Sturtevant.  In a new book, Sturtevant: Warhol Marilyn, Patricia Lee examines the concepts of artistic originality, authorship and celebrity (both Marilyn’s, and Warhol’s.)

“There is an almost studious infidelity to the results of Sturtevant’s recreations, even while the processes of their production may be rigorous in the extreme. For her Warhol Flowers, Warhol himself lent her the very screen he had used to print from. In the case of her Warhol Marilyn, the original screen was lost but Sturtevant successfully tracked down the original publicity still that it was made from and took it to Andy’s own silkscreen guy to make the stencil. In later years, when people asked Warhol how he made his silkscreens he would simply answer, ‘Ask Elaine.’

‘Everyone says, So, Andy really understood!‘ Lee quotes Sturtevant in the book, ‘Well I don’t think so. I think he didn’t give a f***. Which is a very big difference, isn’t it?'”

Warhol, Avedon and Marilyn in London

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‘Warhol Avedon’, a new exhibition combining the works of pop artist Andy Warhol and photographer Richard Avedon, is on display until April 23 at The Gagosian in Britannia St, London (King’s Cross/St Pancras area.) Ash Moore reviews the exhibit for The 405, exploring the different ways in which Warhol and Avedon approached Marilyn as a celebrity subject. (The exhibition is also covered in Harper’s Bazaar‘s UK March edition.)

Marilyn (1962) portrays the superstar in a deadpan expressionless aesthetic. It is the commentary rather than the portrait that seeps through and Warhol’s darker fascination with both her mortal death and her death of self is disclosed. The cheapening of her image through serialization and reproduction is a statement made by Warhol about the nature of society and the way personas could be marketed and consumed like products…

Unlike Warhol’s assembly line reproductions, Avedon set out to capture the genuine sentiments of celebrities. This is entirely poised in his portrait of Monroe in Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6 (1957). The comparison between the two sets of work is without precedent. In Avedon’s portrait, we see a more vulnerable or innocent looking Monroe, a side to her that wasn’t necessarily depicted in the public domain.”

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Liz and Marilyn in Toronto

'Let's Make Love' (1960)
‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960)

The TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto is screening a series of movies starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn this month, including almost every major Monroe film from Don’t Bother to Knock to The Misfits. This is a tie-in with a current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, on display until January 24, 2016.

“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro — a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art — Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity. Their shared talent for scandal and reputations as miscreants on set — ‘No company can afford Monroe and Taylor,’ a spokesman for 20th Century Fox stated after Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give — were equalled, for Warhol, by their ability to make the screen shimmer with an ineffable allure. If, as he famously averred, ‘beauty is a sign of intelligence’, no stars were brighter.”

You can read more about Liz, Marilyn and Warhol here.