‘Orion’ to be reinstalled at UMMA ahead of sculptor’s appearance


After a yearlong hiatus, an iconic work of public art — along with the artist who created it — will return to the University of Michigan’s Central Campus next week.

Mark di Suvero’s 53-foot high, 21,220-pound steel sculpture “Orion” will be reinstalled in front of the U-M Museum of Art on Tuesday.

A day later, the internationally renowned artist will participate in a public conversation with UMMA Director Christina Olsen, where they will discuss the significant role that public art plays on a university campus.

“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.”

Photo of the "Orion" sculpture in front of the U-M Museum of Art
This file photo shows “Orion” in front of the U-M Museum of Art before it was temporarily removed a year ago. (Photo courtesy of the U-M Museum of Art)

“Making art public: A conversation with Mark di Suvero and Christina Olsen” will take place from 5-6 p.m. Wednesday at UMMA. The event is free and open to the public. President Mark Schlissel will welcome di Suvero, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree at Spring Commencement on May 4.

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 is 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.

Initially exhibited at Chicago’s Millennium Park, di Suvero’s “Orion” (2006) first arrived at UMMA as a long-term loan in 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 stormwater system 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 reinstallation will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday in front of the museum.

The sculpture, which has become an Ann Arbor landmark in recent years, is one of two of massive steel di Suvero 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 United States in 1941 and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. His honors include a Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award from the International Sculpture Center in 2000 and a National Medal of Arts in 2010.

UMMA’s “In Conversation” program is co-sponsored by the University of Michigan President’s Advisory Committee on Public Art.



  1. Daniel Erickson
    on April 19, 2019 at 3:42 am

    “Orion,” I guess I can see that now. I always assumed it was just some scrap metal someone painted and called “art.”

    • Lee Hartmann
      on April 19, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      As a professional astronomer, and as a former amateur astronomer, I saw it immediately. I’m very glad it’s coming back.

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