Charg­ing Bull artist plants feet in de­fence of statue

Sculp­tor says Fear­less Girl changed mean­ing of his art

Toronto Star - - NEWS - KATIE METTLER

NEW YORK— With hopes of dis­pens­ing the “per­fect an­ti­dote” to the stock mar­ket crash of 1987, Ital­ian-born sculp­tor Ar­turo Di Mod­ica spent two years weld­ing a 7,000-pound bronze bull statue de­signed to cap­ture the re­silience of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Un­der the cover of night and with­out a per­mit, he in­stalled his mas­sive Charg­ing Bull di­rectly be­fore the New York Stock Ex­change, a gift New York­ers loved but New York City ini­tially hated. Au­thor­i­ties re­moved it, but later re­in­stalled it un­der pres­sure at a small pub­lic park in the fi­nan­cial district.

In the 28 years since, it has be­come an in­sti­tu­tion.

Then last month, on In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, a new statue of a sym­bol­i­cally brave Fear­less Girl stole its spot­light — and, Di Mod­ica says, fun­da­men­tally cor­rupted the artis­tic in­tegrity of his Charg­ing Bull.

As Fear­less Girl was her­alded by many as a sym­bol for fe­male em­pow­er­ment, Di Mod­ica doled out sharp crit­i­cism, cast­ing the statue as not art, but a pub­lic­ity stunt by the gen­der-ori­ented com­pany that com­mis­sioned it.

He force­fully ad­vo­cated against a global cam­paign to make Fear­less Girl a per­ma­nent fix­ture, but fans per­se­vered, per­suad­ing New York City Mayor Bill de Bla­sio to ex­tend the statue’s per­mit through April 2018.

On be­half of his bull, Di Mod­ica won’t back down.

The artist held a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day to ex­plain his plans to chal­lenge the city of­fi­cials who let Fear­less Girl hap­pen with­out ask­ing his per­mis­sion. The new neigh­bour­ing statue changes his bull into some­thing neg­a­tive, he said, and the bull’s mes­sage is sup­posed to be “free­dom in the world, peace, strength, power and love.”

“The place­ment of the statue of the young girl in op­po­si­tion to Charg­ing Bull has un­der­mined the in­tegrity and mod­i­fied the Charg­ing Bull,” said Nor­man Siegel, an at­tor­ney for Di Mod­ica. “The Charg­ing Bull no longer car­ries a pos­i­tive, op­ti­mistic mes­sage. Rather, it has been trans­formed into a neg­a­tive force and a threat.”

Siegel said he hopes the dis­pute can be re­solved am­i­ca­bly but noted, “we never dis­miss the pos­si­bil­ity of lit­i­ga­tion.”

Fear­less Girl de­buted on March 7, near the first an­niver­sary of the Gen­der Diver­sity In­dex SHE, which tracks com­pa­nies that are gen­der di­verse and was cre­ated by in­vest­ment firm State Street Global Ad­vi­sors.

State Street com­mis­sioned Delaware-based artist Kris­ten Vis­bal to cast the four-foot bronze girl, who wears pig­tails and a wind­blown dress, and, with hands on her hips, stares dar­ingly at the beast be­fore her.

“We were fo­cus­ing on mak­ing a state­ment about the fu­ture of Wall Street,” Vis­bal told CNN Money last month. “We wanted this won­der­ful con­trast.”

The project is about “girl power,” she said, a mes­sage to cor­po­rate boards on Wall Street with a dearth of women mem­bers “that we are here, that we are heard, that we are per­ma­nent.”

They also drew in­spi­ra­tion from Di Mod­ica’s sur­prise in­stal­ment, albeit with a per­mit, and dropped her off in the mid­dle of the night. The girl quickly be­came an on­line sen­sa­tion, earn­ing praise from Chelsea Clin­ton and ac­tress Jessica Chas­tain and draw­ing its own swarm of women and girls who felt in­spired.

The plaque at the feet of Fear­less Girl reads: “Know the power of women in lead­er­ship. SHE makes a dif­fer­ence.”

This overt ref­er­ence to State Street’s SHE In­dex could con­trib­ute to Di Mod­ica in­sis­tence that Fear­less Girl is noth­ing more than mar­ket­ing trick­ery or­ches­trated by the firm’s New York ad­ver­tis­ing part­ner, McCann.

“That is not a sym­bol!” the 76-yearold Si­cil­ian im­mi­grant told the New York Post and Mar­ket Watch in March.

He said in an in­ter­view from his art stu­dio that his protest was not meant to snub the im­por­tance of gen­der equal­ity, but to de­fend the in­tegrity of his bull.

“I put it there for art,” he told the pub­li­ca­tions.

“My bull is a sym­bol for Amer­ica. My bull is a sym­bol of pros­per­ity and for strength.”

Lawyer Siegel, who joined Di Mod­ica and other lawyers at the news con­fer­ence, said the at­tor­neys sent let­ters re­quest­ing the girl’s re­moval to de Bla­sio and the CEOs of State Street and its ad­ver­tis­ing firm, McCann World­group.

De Bla­sio re­sponded on Twit­ter that men who don’t like women tak­ing up space “are ex­actly why we need the Fear­less Girl.”

A State Street spokesper­son, Anne McNally, said the firm is re­view­ing the let­ter.

Af­ter read­ing that Di Mod­ica was up­set by Fear­less Girl, Vis­bal told the New York Post she was dis­tressed and praised the sculp­tor’s artis­tic abil­i­ties as “ex­cep­tional.”

“The bull is beau­ti­ful, it’s a stun­ning piece of art,” Vis­bal told the New York Post. “But the world changes and we are now run­ning with this bull.”

“The Charg­ing Bull no longer car­ries a pos­i­tive, op­ti­mistic mes­sage. Rather, it has been trans­formed into a neg­a­tive force and a threat.” NOR­MAN SIEGEL AR­TURO DI MOD­ICA’S AT­TOR­NEY


On In­ter­na­tional Women’s Day, the statue of a sym­bol­i­cally brave Fear­less Girl was placed in front of Ar­turo Di Mod­ica’s 7,000-pound bronze bull.

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