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Cultural Collections

Di Suvero sculpture to be reinstalled ahead of U-M talk, presentation of honorary degree

By Sydney Hawkins

"Orion" returned to campus on April 23—along with the iconic artist who created it—on April 23. Photo by Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.

ANN ARBOR—After a yearlong hiatus, an iconic work of public art—along with the artist who created it—returned to the University of Michigan’s central campus last week.

On April 23, Mark di Suvero’s 53-foot high, 21,220-pound steel sculpture “Orion” was carefully reinstalled in front of the U-M Museum of Art.

A day after the return of his sculpture, the internationally renowned artist participated in a public conversation with UMMA Director Christina Olsen, where they discussed the significant role that public art plays on a university campus.

Artist Mark di Suvero (left) oversaw the reinstallation of "Orion" on U-M's campus on April 23. Photo by Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.

Artist Mark di Suvero (left) oversaw the reinstallation of “Orion” on U-M’s campus on April 23. Photo by Roger Hart/Michigan Photography.

“Mark di Suvero is one of last living abstract expressionist artists, and arguably the most important 20th-century American sculptor of outdoor, public art,” Olsen said. “An opportunity to hear from him is a rare occurrence, especially with one so steeped in the concerns of our present social, political and environmental debates.”

According to Olsen, who also chairs the U-M President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art, di Suvero’s visit is part of a “reimagining” of U-M’s public art program.

“This was a moment for the community to come to together to hear about and discuss what the impact of a collection like U-M’s can have on the future of the university and the world,” she said.

U-M President Mark Schlissel welcomed di Suvero, who also received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at U-M’s Spring Commencement ceremony May 4 at Michigan Stadium.

During di Suvero’s April 24 appearance at UMMA, it was also announced that “Orion,” which was previously on loan, is now a part of U-M’s permanent collection thanks to a fundraising effort led by alumnus Sandy Robertson. Robertson, along with small group of other passionate alumni and friends, provided funding for the sculpture, which had previously been on a long-term loan.

Initially exhibited at Chicago’s Millennium Park, di Suvero’s “Orion” (2006) first arrived at UMMA as a 2008, helping to celebrate the Museum’s then-new Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing. In April 2018, it was removed in preparation for storm water repairs on UMMA’s grounds, which provided an opportunity to send the sculpture back to the artist’s studio in New York for some conservation and a fresh coat of vibrant orange-red paint.

The sculpture, which has become an Ann Arbor landmark in recent years, is one of two of di Suvero’s massive steel works that welcome visitors to UMMA—”Shang” (1984-85) is a kinetic sculpture that invites passersby to “swing” on its suspended platform.

Born in Shanghai in 1933, di Suvero immigrated to the U.S. in 1941 and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. He has received several honors in his career, including a Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the International Sculpture Center in 2000 and a National Medal of Arts in 2010.

Di Suvero’s visit was co-sponsored by the University of Michigan President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art.

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