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Core to the exhibit, though, are those Pucci prints. Dikeou painted 36 watercolors based on the swirling patterns; the gallery walls are covered in them as well. The number signifies Monroe’s age when she died. Dikeou, however, uses a design from her own Pucci tunic, purchased in the Eighties, rather than Monroe’s actual burial attire. “I didn’t want it to be a complete narrative of Marilyn,” she explains. “I thought, ‘What do I have to do with this? There had to be an element of me in there as well.’ [It still alludes] to the Pucci design, the mythic Monroe persona and the nostalgia around her idea of being buried in a particular design.”
“Marilyn Monroe Wanted to Be Buried in Pucci” is an endeavor almost a decade in the making. In 2000, the artist did a similarly themed piece for the literary magazine Open City; one spread was a close-up photograph of Dikeou’s Pucci dress. The Union Square shots were there as well. The timing, the artist notes, was just never right to turn the motif into a full-blown exhibit until now.
Curiously enough, the project had its starting point with DiMaggio, not Monroe. Dikeou is a baseball buff (her father, John Dikeou, once owned the minor league Denver Zephyrs, now the New Orleans Zephyrs) and she often integrates the sport into her artwork. In 1995, for instance, she created a ready-made installation using her own DiMaggio-signed baseball. For the piece, called “Touch of Greatness,” she invited visitors to put their fingerprints on the ball. “You make it an artwork, but it devalues as a collectible,” says Dikeou.
Of course, here the Monroe angle makes all the difference, both visually and conceptually. “I’m interested in the folklore of stuff,” says Dikeou. “What I like about this piece is that it’s so loaded. Both Joe and Marilyn are so loaded. But there’s something just so crazy and great about it, too. I mean, who wants to be buried in Pucci?”