Imagine Tree, Copenhagen, Iceland, Oko Ono

Imagine Peace: Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree:” From Copenhagen to Iceland and beyond

By Lee Daley.

If you should encounter a Wish Tree, this is Yoko Ono‘s suggestion: “Make a wish. Write it down on a piece of paper. Fold it and tie it around a branch of a Wish Tree. Ask your friends to do the same. Keep wishing until the branches are covered with wishes.”

I first saw one of Ono’s Wish Trees last month at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg Museum in Copenhagen. The exhibit was my introduction to the Imagine Peace Tower, an interactive artwork peace project. Wish Trees from around the world bring wishes together when they are collected and stored in time capsules surrounding the Imagine Peace Tower on Viðey Island near Reykjavik, Iceland.

In Copenhagen, at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg Art Museum, a delicate potted olive tree is covered with tags upon which visitors have written messages centered on their desire for peace. At the base of the tree, a container holds more tags for the thoughts of future visitors.and internationally as far as Tokyo, Venice and London.


The Wish Tree project began as far back as 1981 and has evolved into a global initiative in which trees native to a site are either planted or potted under Ono’s direction… Wish Trees have been dedicated in American cities such as New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC. The project developed into a series when one tree in Finland grew into a mini-forest. So inspired, Ms. Ono says she felt a social obligation to expand the idea into the Imagine Peace Project. She is quoted as saying, “As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin paper and tie it around the branch of a tree. Trees in temple courtyards were always filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar.”

In a 1996 interview, Ono predicted that every piece of paper with a wish on it would be put in a big tower of a sculpture, “like a totem. It will be a very powerful sculpture-a tower which contains wishes of the people of the world of our time. All in one tower.”

True to her word, Ono conceived an artwork that is now the Imagine Peace Tower, an outdoor tower of light dedicated to John Lennon. Situated on the island of Viðey just offshore from Reykjavik, Iceland, visitors can ferry to the island from the capital. The artwork was unveiled on October 9, 2007 on what would have been Lennon’s 67th birthday. The light of the tower can be seen every year between October 9 (Lennon’s birthday) and December 8 (the day of his death) as well as other significant dates.

According to the Imagine Peace Tower’s website,” One of the mesmerizing features of the Imagine Peace Tower is that the strength, intensity and brilliance of its light continually changes with the prevailing weather and atmospheric conditions unique to Iceland, creating a clear pillar of light on a cloudless night, beams irridescing with rainbow refractions in rain or snowfall, and brilliantly reflecting off and through any moving layers of cloud.” A well surrounds the tower and holds the stored wishes. The words IMAGINE PEACE are inscribed on the Well in 24 different languages.


For information on traveling to Iceland, go to:

In Copenhagen, Kunsthal Charlottenborg is within walking distance of the colorful old waterfront Nyhaven district. Scenes of its buildings and garden were filmed in the multi Academy Award winning film, The Danish Girl. It is one of the most beautiful exhibition spaces for international contemporary art in Europe, presenting events, talks, performances and screenings. Current exhibitions include “Take Me (I’m Yours,) an interactive work which will continue into the autumn of 2016. Concurrently, the annual MFA degree show for graduates from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art’s Schools of Visual Arts will run from June into August And don’t forget to place a wish on the Yoko Ono “Wish Tree.” For more information on visiting Copenhagen, go to

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