Catalogue to keep

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 11-Mar-2016

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For decades to come Bendigonians will remember the time when history’s most famous blonde occupied their city – and the current Bendigo Art Gallery exhibition’s accompanying commemorative catalogue is an exceptional keepsake for reading now and then passing down to future generations.

Compiled by the event’s curator, Tansy Curtin, in collaboration with La Trobe University senior lecturer Susan Gillett and gallery director Karen Quinlan, it comprises a thoughtful potted history of the famous actress-singer’s personal life and Hollywood career interspersed with images ranging from formal portraits and promotional posters to candid snapshots and on-set stills.

In her introduction Quinlan puts into context the gallery’s interest in this American icon: “In the global world in which we live, Marilyn belongs to everyone and no one.”

The core of the exhibition is clothing (both on-screen and private), makeup, jewellery and documents now owned by two US historian-collectors, Scott Fortner and Greg Schreiner, and Maite Mínguez Ricart in Spain. 

Although these artefacts themselves are not reproduced in this book, many of its photographs of Monroe show her wearing the garments, and a full list of the 100-plus items on display is provided.

Readers can be confident that this account of Monroe’s life – unlike some loose biographies of the celebrity – is reflective, balanced, thoroughly researched and, perhaps most importantly, entirely accurate.

It portrays Monroe as a capable, savvy businesswoman who took the lead in defining herself as the world’s most recognisable sex symbol but who despite her phenomenal international success did not amass personal wealth, preferring to share her earnings with the people around her. 

Her generosity and outer cheerfulness are contrasted with the insecurity and self-doubt that overshadowed her adult years.

In full colour, this catalogue is an elegant, coffee-table-style, softcover memento of arguably the greatest Monroe exhibition yet mounted anywhere in the world. – Rosalea Ryan

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