An exhibition focusing on the actress, singer and style icon, Marilyn Monroe, representing the emancipation of women in the 1950s is being mounted at Liechtenstein’s National Museum, Vaduz. The show highlights the strength behind the phenomenon who, even 53 years after her death in 1962, has not lost her charm and influence. MM also exemplifies how society and the women’s movement accepts her as a role model for emancipation.
Presented are more than 400 selected pieces from the private collection of Ted Stampfer, the world’s largest collection of Marilyn Monroe originals of its kind. Through his willingness to present his collection in exhibitions, the art collector and expert wants not only to remember the actress, who was intellectually underestimated during her lifetime and reduced by filmmakers and media to her visual appeal, but also to make exhibit attendees aware of the clever and ambitious businesswoman. Most of the pieces originate from her estate, of which the items were stored after Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962, until 1999, until large portions of it were put up for auction with auction at Christie’s and Julien’s. The exhibition is rounded out by individual pieces from other international collectors.
Uniquely designed and seen for the first time worldwide, the National Museum in Liechtenstein thus enables its exhibition visitors to dive into Monroe’s world. Visitors walk through the most important chronological development stages of her life, and can view special exhibits that not only give a glimpse into her life and the work of this extraordinary woman, but also highlight her emancipated side. These include: high-quality articles of clothing; accessories; beauty, skincare and styling products; personal and film company documents; film props; and extensive photo and film footage presented by means of electronic media.
The exhibition, however, is not just focused on presenting personal belongings from a late actress. Rather, it focuses more on the unknown private person — the real face behind the Hollywood icon. Thus, it gives an intimate look at the real person behind the fictional persona Marilyn Monroe. Using examples, visitors learn about an ambitious woman of the 1940s and 1950s, who, despite the prevailing gender roles of her time, reached her own set goals gradually and with great confidence.
Adressed is on the one hand, the outward makeover of a natural brunette girl, who became with the conscious use of her body the most desirable woman in the world. This is, for example, demonstrated with the original false eyelashes, various containers of makeup, articles and accessories used as highlights for her hair styling, which were significantly involved in the transformation process. But also Marilyn’s favorite clothing is presented, including her white and checkered capri pants, which she liked to combine with a black turtleneck sweater. She wore them both in her private life as well as in important photo shoots (for example in the famous shoots with photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt and Milton Greene). These iconic photographs today show us not only a timeless beauty, but a self-confident woman, who was well aware of her own charisma.
In addition, the exhibition also highlights the public person and reports about the strong side of a woman who had to compete in a man’s world in the 1950s. There are character traits and self-confident behavior demonstrated, which culminated at the height of Monroe’s career to rebel against the male-dominated film industry. This courageous behavior led to, among other things, better contract terms and the ability to have more say over her career, plus to establishing her own film production company — another way she became more independent. The exhibition presents original costumes, film props and important documents on the films that were produced by Monroe herself.
Besides the interest in her own career and her personal advancement, Marilyn Monroe was also involved in helping the disadvantaged and minorities. This is illustrated with the example of Ella Fitzgerald, the famous African-American jazz singer, for whom Monroe actively campaigned to obtain engagements in a hip nightclub that was typically reserved for white artists. Fitzgerald later reported that Monroe’s influence and active action were instrumental in her international success as a singer.
The exhibition offers in all its aspects a comprehensive view of the strong-willed character of a woman who was ahead of her time. And it also reveals to the visitor that Marilyn Monroe, by her behavior in different ways, exerted a formative influence on the emancipation of women, making her one of the most important cultural and historical figures of the 20th century.
Norma Jeane Mortenson, also known as Marilyn Monroe is born on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles and baptized with the name Norma Jeane Baker. A few weeks after her birth, her mother gives her to different foster families, which continues until her teens. This significantly impacts the young girl, resulting in her feeling that she is missing true love in her life. As an unhappy child in Hollywood, she finds refuge in the world of cinema. She develops the desire to become an actress and discovers her idol Jean Harlow, the most successful Hollywood actress of the 1930s. Grace Goddard, a friend of her biological mother and later the legal guardian for the young girl, strongly supports her acting dreams. With the onset of puberty, her life changes abruptly. Norma Jeane first discovers her charisma and effect on her environment, which teaches her specifically to confidently use her early, developed female attributes. In late 1944 she is discovered as a model, which paves the way to her desired model and acting career. She succeeds in stepping into the film industry and she takes the stage name Marilyn Monroe, a name that is recognised later as the most famous film star of all time. With the comedies Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, she reaches her international breakthrough in 1953. At the zenith of her film career, she rebels against the male-dominated film industry in Hollywood. Based on years of poor pay as an actress with her contracts and the lack of challenging roles, she turns her back on Hollywood at the end of 1954. She moves to New York and starts her own production company with her friend and photographer Milton Greene. She seeks demanding roles that make better use of her acting talent and she starts, though she has long been a star, with professional acting lessons. More and more she distances herself from the once imposed and specifically employed role of a sex symbol, to change to character roles that she desires. As a producer in her own film production company, she creates the films Bus Stop (1956) and The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). For her acting performances in these productions, she receives international film awards and a Golden Globe nomination. For her starring role in the next film classic Some Like It Hot she finally receives the Golden Globe Award in the category Best Actress in a Comedy 1959. In March 1962 she receives her second Golden Globe Award, this time in the category World film favorite: Female 1961. In that same year, she receives an interesting offer to perform for the President of the United States John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York and rises to the highest social circles. Her most breathy birthday song stirs rumors about an affair between the president and the actress, which are never confirmed. Marilyn Monroe’s pronounced perfectionism and ambition bring her the desired results occupationally, although privately, however, they lead to the failure of her three marriages, including with the baseball star Joe DiMaggio and the writer Arthur Miller. Her desire to have children remains unfulfilled after several miscarriages. With the beginning of the fears of failure on the set, she also becomes more dependent on tranquilizers and sleeping pills in her last years. A new beginning marks the last few weeks of Marilyn Monroeís life. She gets new film offers and successfully negotiates better terms with the film company she works for. In private, she is planning a renewed marriage to Joe DiMaggio, her former second husband, who she divorced in 1954. Marilyn Monroe dies unexpectedly on the night of August 4 to August 5, 1962 in her home in Los Angeles from an overdose of different medications. The circumstances of her death are still not clear. She was 36 years old.
Photo: Courtesy Liechtenstein National Museum, Vaduz © all rights reserved
Marilyn – the Strength Behind the Legendary Monroe VADUZ, Liechtenstein, March 25, 2015 Special Exhibition Liechtenstein National Museum, Vaduz