Palm Springs Plans ‘Forever Marilyn’ Return

Palm Springs is considering locations for the possible return of Seward Johnson’s giant ‘Forever Marilyn’ sculpture, the Desert Sun reports. First unveiled in Chicago, the statue became a local landmark during its two-year stay in the California resort.

“The Palm Springs City Council on Nov. 12 will consider placing the statue on Museum Way west of Belardo Road — essentially between the art museum and the Kimpton Rowan hotel. That block is south of the downtown park that’s currently in development, and it would be closed to traffic to accommodate the statue, according to city documents.

The local tourism booster organization PS Resorts told the city last week it is negotiating purchase terms from the Sculpture Foundation, which currently owns the statue. Conversions have been going on to bring the statute back since at least 2016, with no clear picture on where to put it or how to pay for it.

PS Resorts has offered to buy the statue outright for $1 million, the letter said, but it has also looked at leasing the statue for two years with the option to buy. PS Resorts Chairman Aftab Dada told The Desert Sun on Friday that a lease may be more likely. He wouldn’t say how much PS Resorts, which is funded through a portion of the city’s transient occupancy taxes on resort fees, has squirreled away to put down for a lease. But without a confirmed location, he said he would ‘seriously doubt’ a lease or sale could be accomplished. ‘Location is the key right now,’ he said.

PS Resorts has been working to bring back the statue for some time. Negotiations with the Sculpture Foundation have been going on at least since at least last fall, when city officials said the statue was on its way back to Palm Springs.

Recent discussions about getting the statue back to town suggested placing it at Town & Country Center, a historic midcentury shopping plaza on Palm Canyon Drive that’s slated to be restored. But architecture historians and preservationists were concerned the statue would detract from that property’s history and architectural significance. A staff report for the agenda item going before City Council next week says there a few possibilities for a location, including Frances Stevens Park, land off Museum Way owned by Grit Development, or in the new downtown park. But the preferred location for PS Resorts is to close off Museum Way.

The city staff report said this emerged as a top option because people would be able to safely walk around the statue and take photos. Plus, the ‘location and position of the sculpture will also provide an ideal photo orientation by having both the mountains and the iconic Palm Springs Art Museum in the background.’ Tourism officials are hopeful that placing the statue in a visible, attractive location will ‘in turn highlight Palm Springs as a tourist destination as those pictures are shared on social media many times over,’ according to city staff reports.

PS Resorts, according to the letter it sent to the city, hopes that the placement of the statue will help transform Museum Way from a street to ‘a visitor and pedestrian-friendly Downtown Art Walk.’ As part of the placement, City Council will vote on whether to authorize the city manager to execute a three-year license agreement with PS Resorts to place the statue downtown, plus whether to officially vacate that portion of the street to traffic.”