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Costly Repairs Threaten Anti-Nuke Sculpture's Future

Santa Monica's Art Commission will consider whether the city should spend hundreds of thousand of dollars to conserve the work by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Paul Conrad.

Santa Monica's 26-foot tall nuclear mushroom cloud sculpture created by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Paul Conrad could be dropped from the city's collection of public art.

Because the sculpture is in need of major conservation work—to the tune of up to $423,172—the city's Arts Commission will consider recommending its removal.

It was installed in Santa Monica's Civic Center 21 years ago as a "statement of peace," despite opposition from some residents.

Conrad was renowned for his newspaper cartoons, but he also created a number of sculptures, mostly small-scale bronze busts of the political figures that resembled his caricatures. Some critics have said Chain Reaction is more symbolic as a political statement than as a work of art.

Although he initially proposed casting the sculpture of bronze, Conrad used copper tubing, which he placed over a core of fiberglass and stainless steel.

Bronze, staffers said, would have been easier to preserve.

The internal steel frame is now corroded and rusted. The anchor bolts and nuts the secure the entire sculpture to its foundation, the stainless steel square tubes which form the shape of the sculpture, and the wire mesh adhered to the fiberglass finish are especially dilapidated.

"It appears at this point in time that the work was not constructed in such a way as to ensure its structural stability over the long term, or beyond 20 to 25 years, without significant investment and repairs," the memo states.

Prompted by the number of children seen climbing on it, in June, a temporary fence was erected around the sculpture while engineers assessed how badly it had deteriorated over the years.

Local activist Jerry Rubin is calling on the public to encircle Chain Reaction in support of it being saved before the Arts Commission meets Wednesday evening.

The statue's removal is expected to cost about $20,000. To date, the city has spent $20,715 on the conservation assessment and engineers' report.

If the statue is ultimately removed from Santa Monica's public art collection, it would be offered first to Conrad’s family. It's possible that more studies assessing the sculpture's stability will be commissioned before any determination is made.

Frank Deese January 31, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Let it go. But when it falls over, make sure no on gets hit over the head with its "message."
Eddie Greenberg January 31, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Is the "statement of peace" now outdated? Or does it now not conform to your new plans for the Civic Center? You say it needs $423,172 worth of repair, but at whose rates? Were estimates for this work received? Who gave them and exactly what itemized costs for that work will be provided? Please do not insult our intelligence with an inflated number like this! Prove where the number came from and let us decide. Peace should never, ever be the victim of spin! For once in the name of "Peace" we are owed the truth!! This "art" conveys peace and the atrocities of nuclear war. What does the Art Commission know of nuclear conflict? Council Members?
Marshall Thompson February 28, 2012 at 06:37 AM
Please, this eyesore should go. And bring US troops home from everywhere on the planet. Is that balanced enough? I think so!

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