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Marilyn Forever: New Exhibit Opens in Philadelphia

A new mixed-media exhibit at Moore College of Art & Design examines Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe's romance.

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The rhinestone-studded gown she wore to sing “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy, her pleated white halter dress from “The Seven Year Itch” and the jeans-and-shirt combo from “The Misfits” — these are Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic outfits, but there’s another that is getting play: the dress she was buried in.

“Marilyn Monroe Wanted to Be Buried in Pucci,” which opened on Friday at the Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia, is a mixed-media showcase by artist Devon Dikeou partly inspired by the actress’ fondness for Emilio Pucci’s dresses — Monroe’s wardrobe was filled with the designer’s punchy kaleidoscopic frocks. “Marilyn is so overwhelming and flamboyant, kind of like a Pucci,” Dikeou, 46, says. “What lots of artists and people find compelling about her is the way she captivated the American consciousness and still remains of interest.” Dikeou’s fascination with Monroe is rooted as well in the actress’ relationship with Joe DiMaggio, to whom she was married for nine months in 1954. The resulting work is a rather poetic take on the two icons and the way their worlds overlapped.

The most poignant example is the rose-filled urn on display. DiMaggio, who planned Monroe’s funeral, had flowers delivered to her grave for 20 years after she died. Dikeou located the florist, Parisian in Hollywood — still in business today — and ordered bouquets to be sent to the Moore College gallery until the show ends March 14: a half-dozen red roses, three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday), as per DiMaggio’s original request. “I really don’t know why it was 20 years. He gave me no reason,” says Parisian’s Louis Alhanati, 81, noting he never once raised the price for DiMaggio during that period. Alhanati, who doesn’t remember the exact figure he initially charged, is donating the arrangements to Dikeou.

At the opening reception on Thursday, Tiffany & Co. lent the artist a diamond ring, a look-alike of the eternity band DiMaggio gave Monroe. Dikeou displayed it on a pedestal for guests to try on themselves. “It’s like stepping into somebody else’s footsteps at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre,” says Dikeou, who is the founder and publisher of the art journal Zingmagazine and owns a gallery in her hometown of Denver. Also featured are five (because DiMaggio wore number 5 for the New York Yankees) photographs of the half-mast flag at New York’s Union Square, taken by Dikeou on March 8, 1999 — the day DiMaggio died.

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