We Lost


Dublin Core


We Lost


Public Art and Protests


We Lost, 1962, Steel

Tony Smith (American) Standing before the Singh Center for Nanotechnology, one can spot the ten-foot modern steel sculpture, We Lost, by minimalist artist Tony Smith (1912-1980). Constructed in 1962, the sculpture exemplifies Smith’s particular interest in geometric shapes and concepts as it was intended to be an exploration of the “cube” in terms of its volume and surfaces. With its mathematical elements, it is well suited to be in front of an engineering research facility.

Initially in his career, artist Tony Smith worked as an architect and his experience with structure design influenced his approach as a sculptor. The geometric design of the piece relates to how sculptors and other visual artists of the twentieth century applied mathematical concepts to their works and allowed them to create sculptures that could appeal to viewers who appreciate math, the humanities, or both.

We Lost was first located in the middle of campus where Robert Indiana’s Love sign now resides but was removed in 1999 because it was in need of conservation attention. In 2013, it was relocated to its current Singh Center address. In addition to a history of relocation, it has been the subject of some thematic misinterpretation.

Due to the fact that the piece was installed during the climax of the Vietnam War protests and because the title makes reference to a state of defeat, many viewers believed that it was a symbol of opposition to the conflict in Vietnam. However, the title is more of a comical reference to an earlier work that Smith abandoned before he was able to complete the casting process.

As previously mentioned, Tony Smith was a minimalist artist. Minimalism is an art form that was born in New York in the 1960s when artists consciously decided to investigate new influences, as well as to give old styles new life. Minimal works typically avoid dramatic representation and often were made of industrial materials.

Anthony "Tony" Smith was born in New Jersey and studied International Style Architecture in Chicago and eventually worked as an assistant to the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In the 1960s, he decided to break away from his career in architecture and began to exhibit his large scale sculptural works.


Anthony Smith.




Modern Sculpture


Courtyard of the Singh Center for Nanotechnology


Painted Steel


Anthony Smith., “We Lost,” Art at Penn, accessed April 12, 2024, https://pennds.org/arth503640/items/show/8.