Sculpture gets a reprieve

Paul Conrad’s anti-nuclear war “Chain Reaction” sculpture in Santa Monica is out from under a cloud -- at least temporarily.

The City Council voted Tuesday night to authorize funds to patch and secure the deteriorated sculpture and agreed to give admirers until Feb. 1, 2014, to raise funds to rebuild it.

“We’ve now got the city on board with us,” said David Conrad, son of the late sculptor and political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times. “A year ago, they didn’t want to be bothered. Now, by council’s direction, they have to help us. It’s what we needed all along.”

Conrad said his family and other supporters, including local peace activist Jerry Rubin, would raise funds to rehabilitate the 26-foot-tall sculpture, which has stood in the Santa Monica Civic Center since 1991.


By a 6-1 vote, the council authorized $20,000 to temporarily patch the artwork, a mass of tangled chains in the shape of a mushroom cloud. It also agreed to match $50,000 in donations for its repair.

The elder Conrad, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who died in 2010, was paid $250,000 by a private donor to sculpt the work more than two decades ago. At first he planned to build it of easy-to-maintain bronze. Instead, however, it was crafted of copper tubing over a fiberglass core and stainless steel frame.

He inscribed it with the message: “This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph.”

But time and salt air have taken their toll.

In 2011, a city official raised concerns about the 51/2-ton sculpture’s safety after he saw children climbing on it. The City Council last March approved the sculpture’s removal but allowed supporters until November to raise funds to save it.

The city’s Landmarks Commission voted unanimously in July to designate “Chain Reaction” a city landmark.

Projected costs to fix the sculpture range from $227,000 to $423,000. The city also committed $80,000 to create a landscape barrier around the work should it be rebuilt.