Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon

Anonymous Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1956_2006 gicléeCelebrating the opening of its first international blockbuster exhibition on Friday 12 February, Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) will present a survey of more than 100 works by 50 leading 20th and 21st Century artists portraying the enduring cultural phenomenon of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon features more than 100 paintings, photographs and videos of the starlet, celebrating the image of Marilyn Monroe that still electrifies the world half a century after her death. Famed artists such as Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Antonio de Felipe, Milton H. Greene, and Andy Warhol among others, capture the many sides of the 1950s glamour goddess and immortal legend.

The exhibition reveals the character of Marilyn Monroe as an enduring cultural phenomenon through the art of more than 50 influential artists in styles ranging from fashion photography to Pop art. Images of well loved movie scenes, familiar publicity photos and biographical glimpses into Marilyn’s private moments, cover her rise to stardom, and ultimately, her struggle to empower herself.

While, abstract interpretations of the popular icon sometimes reveal the artists’ ideas on sexuality, commercialism and exploitation through the power of her image. Though her life ended prematurely at the age of 36, the world’s fascination with Marilyn Monroe’s magnetic appeal and much publicized private life has continued to thrive over time.

The images featured in this exhibition illustrate not only the recognizable celebrity, but also Marilyn’s struggle to empower herself. Along with photographs by Eve Arnold, Peter Stackpole and Bob Henriques, the exhibition includes a series of silver gelatin prints by world-renowned British photographer Cecil Beaton, including a photograph reported to be Marilyn’s favourite picture of herself-lying across a bed in a white dress, holding a carnation to her breast.

During her brief career from 1947 to 1962, Marilyn made a lasting impression on Hollywood, appearing in 30 films. Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon depicts recognisable moments in her film career, such as the famous subway grate scene with Thomas Ewell in Seven Year Itch by Sam Shaw, as well as pensive, behind-the-scenes shots by photographers Ernst Haas and Henri Cartier-Bresson on the set of The Misfits – Marilyn’s last film.

The star struggled to balance her career and love-life, marrying and divorcing three times. Her second and third marriages were both highly publicized, and photographs like George Silk’s tearful Marilyn illustrate how the actress was unable to keep her private life out of the limelight.

A great loneliness can be felt in many of Marilyn’s photographs. As images by friend and photographer George Barris demonstrate, Marilyn’s light and radiance was often a façade constructed for the public eye, disguising her frequently dark moods. Barris’ photographs from 1962, showing the starlet laughing and striking poses, are some of the last taken of the actress who was found dead in her Californian home on 5 August 1962.

The exhibition will coincide with a festival of Marilyn which will include screenings of her movies, furniture from the 1950s and 1960s and memorabilia drawn from public and private collections in Australia, including:

  • A significant collection of works by Richard Larter featuring Marilyn Monroe. Richard was an Australian painter, often identified as one of the country’s few highly recognised pop artists.
  • A suite of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn prints authenticated by the Warhol Foundation. Andy Warhol was a key figure in Pop Art, an art movement that emerged in the 1950s, growing in prominence over the next two decades.
  • Significant works from Australian public cultural collections, brought together for the first time.

“To this day no-one has been able to hold a candle to Marilyn Monroe for her sheer charisma, glamour, sex appeal and star power,” says MAMA Director Jacqui Hemsley. “We know the Australian public will fall in love with her all over again.”

Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon
Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA), 546 Dean Street, Albury
Exhibition: 12 February – 8 May 2016
Entry fees apply

For more information, visit: www.mamalbury.com.au for details.

Image: Anonymous, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1956/2006, giclée print

Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon was organised by sairally Fine Arts & Consulting, Hamburg, Germany and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

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