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Why Is There a Big Marilyn Monroe Sculpture on Michigan Ave?

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"Final doubts removed: Giant statue is Marilyn," reads the headline of an article in today's Chicago Tribune. Much has been written about J. Seward Johnson's 26-foot tall statue since its installation began earlier this week, but few have questioned the identity of the woman it depicts. The question most people seem to be asking is "WHAT THE HELL IS MARILYN MONROE DOING IN CHICAGO?" Here's your answer:

"We do the public art because (Zeller Realty Group president) Paul Zeller is really committed to providing art to the general public," said Melissa Farrell, executive assistant at Zeller Realty Group, for which she oversees artwork both in Pioneer Court and a handful of indoor locations. "(Zeller) likes to bring in things that cause a conversation," Farrell said. "They might be controversial, but he likes art that makes people think." OK, Paul. Let's get the conversation going! Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Eric Felten says that tired cultural icons like this one "trigger a gag reflex." ChicagoNow blogger Abraham Ritchie deems it "creepy" and "sexist." Tribune columnist Mary Schmich says that "inviting people to leer at [Marilyn's] giant underpants is just icky." The tourists appear to love it, though; Schmich already spotted some fun-lovin' visitors pretending to lick the statue's crotch for a photo. Quoted in a different Trib article, Paul Seeley, a U of C staffer, put the new statue in context: "There's just so much junk in this plaza," Seeley said. "I would have assumed it's another piece of commercial junk. I read (the sculpture) immediately as a ploy to tourists, as opposed to an addition to the landscape."