Paul Conrad sculpture is designated a Santa Monica landmark

The sculpture "Chain Reaction" by Paul Conrad was not designed for outdoor display, according to a Santa Monica official.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

“Chain Reaction,” the anti-nuclear weapons sculpture by the late Paul Conrad, has received landmark status from Santa Monica’s Landmarks Commission. The group voted unanimously on the designation late Monday at its monthly meeting.

Monday’s decision “provides a level of protection for the sculpture, but there are still opportunities [for the city] to relocate it,” Scott Albright of the commission said in an interview. He said that future efforts to remove Conrad’s sculpture would be reviewed by the commission.

Conrad was an editorial cartoonist for The Times for close to 30 years, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his work. He died in 2010.

The outdoor sculpture has been an object of wrangling in Santa Monica in recent months. The city’s arts commission had recommended the removal of the 26-foot-tall sculpture, citing safety concerns. Since then, the city has allowed time for the community to raise money to go toward restoration and renovation of the work.


Jessica Cusick, Santa Monica’s cultural affairs manager, said that “the work was never properly designed for outdoor display.” She said that city was still exploring the effect that the landmark designation will have on the future of the sculpture.

“My understanding is that issues of public safety trump landmark status,” said Cusick.

The sculpture’s renovation is expected to cost between $227,372 and $423,172, according to a city report. The money would come from independent sources.

“Chain Reaction” was installed at its spot near the Civic Center parking lot in 1991. The sculpture depicts a mushroom cloud following a nuclear attack. At its base, the work features an inscription: “This is a statement of peace. May it never become an epitaph.”


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