Peace Tower is an art installation by Mark di Suvero and others. It was first conceived and constructed in 1966 as The Artists' Tower of Protest in Los Angeles, California to protest the Vietnam War. Forty years later, di Suvero collaborated with Rirkrit Tiravanija to construct a new installation, called Peace Tower (2006) at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City to protest the Iraq War.
The idea for the original Peace Tower came from the Los Angeles Artists Protest Committee, an organization of a hundred or so local artists, wishing to make a visible statement against the Vietnam War. They raised about $10,000 (much of it secretly from Robert Rauschenberg, according to Max Kozloff) and rented an empty lot on The Strip between Hollywood and Los Angeles. The group was led by Arnold Mesches and Irving Petlin, a New York painter then teaching in Los Angeles. Others involved were Judy Gerowitz and Lloyd Hamrol. Mark di Suvero, another New York artist who happened to be in LA for his show at the Dwan Gallery, agreed to do the design for the tower based on work he was doing.
The tower consisted of a fifty-eight foot steel tetrahedron. A fence surrounding the tower had a large yellow sign that read, "Artists Protest Vietnam War." The tower served as a platform for 418 two-foot by two-foot paintings contributed by artists and later auctioned. The artists included Elise Asher, Rudolf Baranik, Will Barnet, Nell Blaine, Paul Brach, James Brooks, Vija Celmins, Herman Cherry, Allan D'Arcangelo, Elaine de Kooning, Philip Evergood, Leon Golub, Balcomb Greene, Philip Guston, Robert Gwathmey, Eva Hesse, John Hultberg, Donald Judd, Max Kozloff, Jack Levine, Roy Lichtenstein, Marcia Marcus, Robert Motherwell, Alice Neal, Louise Nevelson, Philip Pearlstein, Ad Reinhardt, James Rosenquist, Moses Soyer, Nancy Spero, Hedda Sterne, May Stevens, George Sugarman, Tom Wesselmann, Robert Wiegand, and Adja Yunkers.
The tower was dedicated on February 26, 1966 and stood for three months. Public opinion was heavily divided on the issue of the war and the time. The tower and the artists were attacked and ended up having to defend the tower physically. They were aided by volunteers from Watts, the recent scene of race riots. Petlin relates that at one point he had to defend himself with a broken lightbulb and that when Frank Stella heard about this he send a check for $1000, writing, "Anybody who puts their life on the line defending a work of art of mine, I'm going to send a thousand bucks to." In the end, no painting was damaged.
The Peace Tower 2006 was built in the Whitney Museum's Sculpture Court in conjunction with the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Rirkrit Tiravanija had originally thought to have an event centered around a tower in Central Park to coincide with the Republican National Convention. When that did not come together and he was approached by the curators Chrissie Iles and Philippe Vergne to do a project for the Whitney, be proposed this and that Mark di Suvero should be involved. They contacted di Suvero, who was interested and who contacted Irving Petlin.
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