Hey Detroiters, look up! Lurking above you on various city rooftops are orange men and they are watching you. “Who are these men and why are they up there?” one may ask. The orange men are sculptures, and over 20 have been placed on rooftops throughout the city. John Sauve is the artist behind the pieces and he started the project in 2008. He calls it “Man in the City”.
Not only are the steel sculptures now part of the Detroit skyline, they have also been exhibited on New York City’s Highline, an elevated public park built on a historic freight line, similar to Detroit’s Dequindre Cut. They’ve also been on display on New York City’s Governor Island and in Benton Harbor Michigan.
According to Sauve, “The Man in the City Project activates the skyline, and encourages people to look around. In this process of looking and finding, one re-assesses one’s own position in the world and becomes aware of one’s scale within the very fabric of the city. The Man in the City Project creates a metaphor for urban life and all the contradictory associations – alienation, ambition, anonymity and fame.”
The first time I saw the orange sculptures, I was blow away by the idea. I think these little four-foot or so, orange guys, that for some reason remind me of Leonard Cohen, are the coolest and one of the most interesting art projects I’ve seen in a while. I love the simplicity, uniformity, and casualness of the figures. I also like how and where they are placed, as if they are on the edge of our lives, watching over me and us as we travel throughout the city. But most of all, I like the idea of being challenged and encouraged to stretch my view beyond what is directly in front of me; to look past my immediate surroundings and discover what the city’s urban fabric has to offer.
On my bicycle rides around the city I’ve spotted six of the 20 installations, mostly in the city’s mid-town area. I saw them on the roofs of the Scarab Club, Detroit Artist Market, Majestic Theater, Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company, Music Hall and the Park Shelton buildings. There is also one at ground level in the Lincoln Street Art Park near Trumbull Avenue and I-94. Since discovering them a few weeks ago, I’ve had a conversation with Sauve and he’s provided me with a detailed map of the Detroit locations.
Before I post the map, I’d like to know if anyone has seen the Man in the City sculptures. If so, I’d like to know how many, where you saw them and to please post your list in the comments section of this blog. I plan on writing a follow-up story to this one in a few weeks that will include reader comments and a link to the locator map. So please post those locations and stay tuned for the follow-up! In the meantime, look up while in Detroit!