Charging Bull artist plants feet in defence of statue
Sculptor says Fearless Girl changed meaning of his art
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.