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Goodbye Norma Jean: Chicago's 26-foot Marilyn Monroe sculpture moving west

May 2, 2012 at 7:50 PM ET

The late filmmaker Colin Clark may have had his “week with Marilyn,” but travelers to Chicago will likely have to settle for one last weekend fling.

On Monday, the city will begin removing Forever Marilyn, the 26-foot outdoor sculpture of the iconic actress, ending her run as one of the city’s most controversial pieces of public art.

The sculpture, created by Seward Johnson and located on Michigan Avenue, recreates the famous scene from the movie “The Seven Year Itch” in which Monroe stands over a New York subway grate as a passing train sends her skirt billowing up around her thighs. In that scene, the actor Tom Ewell stands next to Monroe with a bemused look of longing and wistfulness.

In Chicago, the reaction has often been more bawdy than bemused. “There are people standing between her legs, making obscene gestures, taking pictures up her legs,” said Andrea Cordts, a local communications manager who blogs at ChicagoQuirks.com.

“The scene in the movie was so iconic — she’s so bashful and coy — but this one, it’s no, there’s her underwear,” she told msnbc.com.

“Everybody’s entitled to an opinion,” countered Melissa Farrell, executive assistant at the Zeller Realty Group, which commissioned the piece and owns Pioneer Court, where it’s currently located. “Art is supposed to start a conversation and we like providing public art that does that.”

The installation, says Farrell, has been among the site’s most popular installations, drawing foot traffic in excess of 40,000 people per day. “We have crowds of people 24 hours a day — people taking photographs of her and with her, wedding parties, Marilyn impersonators ...”

As for Marilyn’s pending departure, Farrell notes that the installation was always meant to be temporary and was scheduled to be removed this month even as it was being unveiled last July.

“People call me all the time to ask how long she’ll be up,” she told msnbc.com, “because they want to plan a trip to Chicago and don’t want to miss it.”

If you’re among that cohort, you’d better hurry — or shift your travel plans a few thousand miles west. Marilyn, it seems, is moving to Palm Springs, Calif., where she’s expected to reassume her iconic pose on May 24.

Hey, whatever blows your skirt up, right?

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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

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