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Giant Marilyn Monroe statue taken down amid local concerns

2014-07-18 08:39 Global Times/Agencies Web Editor: Li Yan
The statue of Marilyn Monroe stands in front of a shopping mall in Guigang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Photo: chinanews.com

The statue of Marilyn Monroe stands in front of a shopping mall in Guigang, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Photo: chinanews.com

People did not realize the home of the world's highest statue of US actress Marilyn Monroe was in Guigang, a small city in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, until the statue fell down and was dumped at a garbage collecting company.

The statue, featuring the famous - or infamous, depending on who you ask - scene from Monroe's movie The Seven Year Itch in which Monroe wore a white dress while standing above wind blowing from a street grate, was 8.18 meters high, 0.28 meters taller than the "Forever Marilyn" statue in Chicago.

The statue was a copy of the "Forever Marilyn" piece, and was erected by a real estate company in Guigang, in the hopes of attracting more customers and promoting business at a shopping mall located behind the statue.

The statue was unveiled in December 2013 and only lived for six months.

The local government said the company did not get the necessary permit before erecting the statue and thus it was an illegal construction and needed to be torn down.

While many Net users criticized the demolition as wasting money and insulting a respected actress like Monroe, some local citizens in Guigang think the Monroe statue should have been demolished as her blown-up dress - and more importantly what was under it - received too much attention and aroused unnecessary curiosity.

A washed up actress?

The original artwork by American artist Seward Johnson swept over the US with her charming smile and natural body language. But the imitation in China has received limited attention.

This was not what Wu Wei, the general manager of the Bali Real Estate Company, expected.

Wu had hoped that the Monroe statue in China would become a new landmark for Guigang.

The statue is a part of a shopping mall. When some investors were considering whether the copycat artwork would become embroiled in a copyright dispute, the shopping mall staff believed that lawsuit with the US would make them world famous.

Monroe was 30 in The Seven Year Itch and Johnson reflected her true face on the "Forever Marilyn" statue, while the Chinese one has a younger face, according to the designers at South China Normal University in Guangzhou.

The team of designers, led by professor Sheng Enyang from the university, spent over a year working on the statue and even visited the original one in Chicago to get inspirations for the artwork.

"I feel so sad it was demolished," said Sheng.

From design to construction, the 4-ton statue took two years and cost more than 5 million yuan ($805,529). Monroe's body parts were finished in Guangzhou, neighboring Guangdong Province, and transported to Guigang.

Wu was quite satisfied with the artwork. "It's so vivid that we can see the blue blood vessels under white skin."

Thousands of people gathered at the downtown square to see the unveiling ceremony. Wu tried to promote the unveiling ceremony to the top news in some websites but failed. The reason was that "the news did not pass the censors."

After that, Wu started to hear and see more local citizens discussing the statue.


Wu did not expect that the most common discussion topic would focus on whether Monroe had "exposed too much of her body" in that depiction.

In a local online forum, people admired Monroe's beauty and Western style that they had not seen before, but some joked that many parents would lodge complaints as many children would "play under Monroe's skirt."

As a new landmark in a third-tier city with a population of more than 5 million, the statue did attract lots of people taking photos with the beauty.

"Many young men came and took photos with their arms surrounding the statue's legs," security guards outside the shopping mall recalled. "I had to chase them away."

Four months after the erection of the statue, Monroe was circled with fences around 90 centimeters high. "We had to do that as many children would worm their way down to the skirts of Monroe," said Wu.

Finally, the company decided to remove the statue. On June 11, Wu called a local crane company.

"I asked why they are removing it, they (the real estate company staff) said that it was because the statue had badly affected the beauty of the city," a crane driver recalled.

"Apparently, the style of the statue did not fit current social trends and the atmosphere," an employee with the local commission of housing and urban-rural development told a Nanning-based newspaper.

While Wu insisted that it was a decision out of business consideration, he admitted at the same time that the company did not want the government to think they were causing trouble.

'Don't go, Monroe'

While the crane was about to start working beside the statue, An Xiao (pseudonym), a local citizen, dressed in a white skirt and took a picture posing like Monroe.

She put up a banner saying "don't go, Monroe" on the fence surrounding the statue.

An also posted her picture online but only received questions like "what's the point of worshipping such a 'whore'?"

An felt disappointed. In fact, she had never watched The Seven Year Itch and before knowing the demolition news, she had never taken a picture with it.

"But I like her," she said. Monroe's statue represents what she has been looking forward to: a different and international life.

For her, Guigang is a boring city. "There is no cultural life here," An said.

An's sentiments were soon echoed by many Net users after a picture showing a smiling Monroe lying in a junkyard appeared online.

"Even statues need dignity," one Net user said.

The Guigang government explained that the government first received citizens' complaints and then found the company had not applied for a permit to build such a large statue in the city.

Wu's company has moved the statue to a ceramic processing factory and covered it with plastic sheets. They have not decided what to do with it yet, but certainly not put it back.

But An still could not accept the decision. "Why don't they demolish the four naked female statues there?" she said as referring to the four statues of traditional "lotus fairies" in front of the government gate.

One week after the removal, a new banner was put up by the retailers around the statue, protesting the mall's high rental and poor management.

"Before we still had some customers attracted by the statue, but now there are too few people," one of the retailers said.

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