When You Wish Upon a Tree at the Hirshhorn

by Brandon Springer — Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden for Smithsonian.com

Some wish for their mothers. Some wish for their fathers. Some wish for siblings or friends, children or partners. Some wishes are rather rude. Some wishes are earnest and sweet.

Yoko Ono’s Washington D.C. Wish Tree is back in bloom in the Hirshhorn sculpture garden this summer.

The tree has stood in the sculpture garden since 2007. It is one of many wish trees around the world installed by Ono as a part of her international peace project IMAGINE PEACE (the name a reference to her late husband’s celebrated album and song).

Every autumn, sometime in November, the leaves fall off and the tree becomes a whispering tree. Rather than hang their wishes from the tree on small strips of paper, as they do during the warmer months, visitors are encouraged to snuggle up to the tree and whisper their wishes to it.

But, come June, the tree buds again and the Hirshhorn provides pencils and little tags to write with and to hang on the tree.

Each day exhibit staff and intern volunteers pluck the tags from the tree.

“We harvest the wishes and send them to the IMAGINE PEACE TOWER in Iceland where they become part of a larger collection of wishes that the artist has amassed,” Hirshhorn communications director Gabriel Riera told me in an e-mail.

Many wish for peace. Many wish for good health, success and happiness, many are quite simple. One written in childlike handwriting reads: “I wish no one was bad.”

Though many of the wishes reflect Ono’s mission of peace, many are more individually focused—a fix for a shaky relationship, luck in school, puppies, video games, iPods; even an end to sibling rivalry: “I wish me and my brother won’t fight.”

Some want things quite unattainable. Sitting in the back of the tree, near the wall of the sculpture garden, one tag reads: “I wish I could fly.”

Bet you that one was written by Yves Klein (just a few yards away in the Hirshhorn).

Yoko Ono: Wish Tree [Hirshhorn, Washington DC, USA]

The Hirshhorn has acquired a new work by Yoko Ono, Wish Tree for Washington D.C. Wish Trees are also located near the Jefferson and Vietnam memorials as well as at The ARC in Anacostia. Ono will exhibit 10 trees around Washington, D.C. for the 2007 Cherry Blossom Festival. The Hirshhorn’s tree, a white Japanese flowering dogwood, will be the only Wish Tree to remain in Washington as a permanent installation and was gifted to the museum by the artist. The project evokes the spirit and goodwill of the initial 1912 gift of cherry blossom trees to the United States from Japan. Wishes from around the world will be gathered by Ono to create her Imagine Peace Tower, which will be inaugurated in October 2007 in Iceland. “Yoko Ono Imagine Peace” is organized by Street Scenes: Project for D.C., and is curated by Nora Halpern and Welmoed Laanstra.

Visitors who cannot visit the museum but would like to contribute their wishes to the Wish Tree project can mail wishes to:

P.O. Box 1009 121 Reykjavik Iceland

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is a leading voice for contemporary art and culture and provides a national platform for the art and artists of our time. We seek to share the transformative power of modern and contemporary art with audiences at all levels of awareness and understanding by creating meaningful, personal experiences in which art, artists, audiences and ideas converge. We enhance public understanding and appreciation of contemporary art through acquisitions, exhibitions, education and public programs, conservation and research.

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Location: PO Box 37012 MRC Code 350

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PO Box 37012
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
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