By Sabina Mollot
Pop International, the Stuyvesant Town resident-owned art gallery that recently showcased works of fine art by Dr. Seuss, is now gearing up for a big show paying tribute to Marilyn Monroe.
The exhibit, which opens on June 17 and will run through July 1, is expected to feature around 75 photos of the glamour icon, some famous images by well-known photographers, others rarely seen and only recently brought out of archives.
The show, curated by Andrew Weiss, will take place at Pop International’s SoHo location at 473 West Broadway. (The other gallery is located in midtown’s Citicorp building.)
Jeff Jaffe, who owns the gallery with his wife Nanette Ross, spoke to Town & Village this week about the collection, which is comprised of photos by seven photographers and taken over a period of 17 years.
“Andrew Weiss, who is a well-known gallerist on the West Coast, reached out to me through a mutual friend,” said Jaffe. “He asked would we like to do a big Marilyn show, and I said, ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’
“It’s definitely up our alley of pop culture figures,” he added.
Most of the images are from Weiss’s own collection, and he owns the rights to the majority of the negatives. Some of the photos are black and white while others are color and they vary in size from 8 by 10 inches to 30 by 40 inches. All are numbered editions and signed when possible. Prices range from $2,000-$40,000, and the show, “17 Years: Marilyn, the Making of a Legend” coincides with the release of Weiss’s book ($55) of the same name.
“There are very famous images that have been in magazines that people will recognize and many that they will not recognize, which is the beauty of the show,” said Jaffe. He added that part of what differentiates this exhibit from the many others on the blonde bombshell is that it captures each period in her life from 1945 to 1962. “Her life was well documented until the end.”
In the earlier images, she was still known as Norma Jean Mortenson, while other photos were taken just weeks before the actress’s death at 36. More well-known images include Monroe posing with a lute and flowers, some nudes and a shot on a beach.
Photographers whose work will be featured include William Carroll, who was the first photographer to pay Monroe ($20 for a shoot) because he liked her wholesome look.
Another was Andre deDienes, a well-known photographer who ended up going on a road trip with Monroe, even though she was married at the time. This was not long after her transformation into Marilyn and some speculated that she and deDienes were more than just friends. There was Lazlo Willinger, who began working with the actress after the studio began altering her look, lifting her hairline and whitening her teeth.
Milton Greene is a photographer Monroe struck up a friendship with and the two even formed a production company after Greene’s attorney found that she was being exploited by her contract with 20th Century Fox. Kashio Aoki also took photos of Monroe as she sat on a plane with husband Joe DiMaggio. Though she was refusing to do any press photos, she posed as a favor for Aoki, a steward on the Pan American flight, who was using his personal camera. Bert Stern took some very famous nude shots of Monroe at the Bel Air Hotel at a shoot six weeks before her death. Another shoot, a mere two weeks before Monroe died, was orchestrated by photojournalist George Barris and took place at a Hollywood home and a beach in Santa Monica.
Jaffe said he’s hopeful the photos will sell well since the demand for anything Marilyn Monroe-related has consistently stood the test of time.
“Everyone loves Marilyn,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an icon in the modern world as great as Marilyn. We can say Elvis or Muhammad Ali, but certainly there was no woman like Marilyn. It’s the combination of fragility and savvy and innocence. She was savvy but she was taken advantage of by the studios. She didn’t call it upon herself but there was always drama, and as she got older she got more gorgeous. She had very little plastic surgery. She was pretty amazing.”
The exhibit will have an opening reception on June 17 from 7-9 p.m. For more information, visit the gallery’s website.