Wednesday, December 22, 2004

"Poignancy Lost" The Marilyn Monroe exhibit at the CMG Legends Museum Dec. 18-19, 2004, Published in NUVO Dec. 22, 2004

Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit
CMG Legends Museum
Dec. 18-19

* A favor from the Press Preview Event, this real white rose pictured was inkjet embossed with an image of Marilyn by

CMG Worldwide, which manages intellectual property rights of famous celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, staged a two-day exhibit, a fund-raiser for St. Vincent’s Center of Hope, of what they touted to be “the largest collection of Marilyn Monroe artifacts ever assembled.” But why?

Even with international magazine covers donning Marilyn’s images wallpapering one lobby exhibit room, these “thousands” of said items, primarily belonging to collector Robert W. Otto of Chicago, didn’t seem to add up to the contents of even the Christies’ offerings at their infamous October 1999 auction.

“Never before seen,” another sales descriptor for the show, was more apt. Fake graduated pearls, dowdy underpants with Marilyn’s name markered upon them, plastic tissue box covers and a bad, faux jaguar three-quarter length sleeve coat an impersonator would turn their nose up at are probably items Marilyn never wanted to see again. With the $25 steep ticket price, importance beyond ownership was necessary for value to have been gained in this unflattering look at Monroe.

Any poignancy, significance or glimpse into the real Norma Jean these mostly mundane (no furs, no little black dresses) objects could have offered was lost in horrible presentation and inconsistent labels — some unprofessionally gushy. The average-for-the-time bathing suits weren’t the ones immortalized in Richard Avedon or Ben Stern photos. Were the awful dresses on display costumes or from photography shoots? Not even the alleged “Happy Birthday Mr. President” pink back-up dress was red carpet. The Irish knit sweater wasn’t the one from the George Barris photos. Context, historical interest, purport, personal history or any ordinary accompanying details to drive the authenticity of these pieces was needed.

The exception was an easily missed French black suit Marilyn wore in the late 1940s to modeling and movie auditions. Displayed within a case in the breezeway of the CMG building, it was not only exposed to damaging direct sunlight, but had hot, harsh, overhead can light beaming down on it from a very short distance. Set against a loosely woven lipstick red fabric, as everything exhibited was, the suit should have been given more precedence.

CMG should’ve used its not-for-profit museum status to garner funding to employ qualified museum professionals to safely display and author a cohesive story for the objects. T-pinning loose 40- to 50-year-old candid photographs to red fabric is unacceptable, shoddy to boot, and gave this “exhibit” an unsatisfying homemade look.

Currently the Brooklyn Museum of Art ( is exhibiting I Wanna Be Loved By You: Photographs of Marilyn Monroe from the Leon and Michaela Constantiner Collection through March 20, 2005, a more dignified and less weird display than this unfortunate local offering. Visit CMG online at

1 comment:

Mark Bellinghaus said...

Bravo Mary, for your amazing article and the discription of a grimm athmosphere. I almost flew in to this exhibit. But I went to the exhibit here in Long Beach and now the whole BS is history and in court. They pranked you and many many thousands of people. I can get you your $25 bucks back, if you still have a admission ticket. Please also visit my blogs.
Keep up the great work.