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Odd image on side of ex-Hancock Tower raises eyebrows

 A look at the unusual/interesting scaffolding on the side of the former Hancock building.
A look at the unusual/interesting scaffolding on the side of the former Hancock building. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

A larger-than-life figure of a man with his hands in his pockets suddenly materialized on the shiny glass windows of the former John Hancock building Wednesday, piquing the curiosity of onlookers in office buildings and on the streets below.

“We have no idea what it is,” said Meghan Hole, who works at a building on Huntington Avenue that has a perfect view of the gray-and-white image. “People have speculated that it’s Yogi Berra, and some said it looks like a naked guy? But we don’t know.”

Representatives from Boston Properties, the company that owns the building, did not return multiple requests for comment about the project, or divulge what exactly is being plastered to the Western facade of what’s now known as 200 Clarendon.

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But according to an e-mail that was distributed to tenants, the massive mural is the final piece in a series of temporary public art installations at the building.

The photo mural is being installed between the 44th and 50th floors of the gleaming tower, and the name of the artist behind the installation will be revealed in the coming days, according to the notice that went out to the building’s occupants.

The image, which appeared to depict a man standing in a bathing suit, was so large, it could be seen from a camera on the Prudential tower that’s operated by the Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center.

People from around the city were intrigued — and tweeted — as the image came to life.

Maria Salvatierra, marketing manager at the Boston Society of Architects, was trying to figure out what was going on.

She talked to some of her group’s members, but they didn’t know. She even called friends at Boston Properties. The response? They were mum.

“Nobody knows anything,” she said. “I’m sure this is on purpose. They want to create some sort of viral activity.”

Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president of the Back Bay Association, also remained in the dark, despite the 62-story building’s towering presence in her area.

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“I’ll have to go take a look at it,” she said Wednesday.

To Lynne Kortenhaus, a veteran publicist who sits on the Boston Art Commission, it’s part of a growing trend of temporary public art in Boston.

She pointed to the murals in Dewey Square downtown, Janet Echelman’s aerial sculpture over the Rose Kennedy Greenway that went up this summer, and the Illuminus light installations coming to Lansdowne Street next month as other recent examples.

For the buildings that provide the canvas, it’s a way to show some creativity, she said.

“It really helps brand the destination and the building even more,” Kortenhaus said. “It’s another way to have a dialogue with the community. That’s what artists ultimately want to do with their work. And it’s a great way of bringing a city the vitality necessary to make it a great urban center.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.