Controversy erupts over Wall Street statue

Art | Sculptor of famous ‘Charging Bull’ says new art installation radically changes the tone of his piece
by Gertrude Too-Rom
Posted 4/20/17, 11:41 am

NEW YORK—A public art controversy is brewing on Wall Street. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has denied Arturo di Modica, the sculptor of the famous “Charging Bull” statue, his request to remove the new “Fearless Girl” statue installed facing the bull. 

The “Charging Bull” monument has stood alone on Wall Street since 1989. But in March, a bronze statue of a small girl appeared, facing down the bull. The “Fearless Girl,” sculpted by Kristen Visbal, was supposed to stand in front of the bull for a few days, but now city officials say it may stay long-term. 

An emotional di Modica told reporters the girl negatively changes his artistic meaning for the bull, which was designed to represent “freedom, peace, strength, power, and love.”

In 1989, di Modica built and installed the monument with his own money—and without permission. It was a gift to New York at a time when the stock market was crashing, and then-Mayor Ed Koch elected to keep the bull–which has since become an icon. 

Financial investment company State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) commissioned the new statue and had it installed “to take steps to increase the number of women” on corporate boards.

During an interview with local radio station WNYC, de Blasio called the bull a celebration of unfettered capitalism. 

“I think the artist has to recognize that times change. The people want to see things that represent their lives and their realities,” de Blasio said. The new statue represents “the empowerment of women. It’s been incredible—the response people have been feeling to it,” he added.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the tiny area around both statues was awash with a crowd of about 70 people, cars whizzing by on either side. Some crowded around the bull and some around the girl, phones and cameras out to capture the moment.

“We’re going to defend ‘Fearless Girl’ and her right to be there … particularly at this moment in history,” the mayor affirmed.

The artist has threatened a lawsuit.

Gertrude Too-Rom

Gertrude is a WORLD intern based in New York.

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  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 04/20/2017 12:16 pm

    Interesting turn of events. I don't think the addition of the girl portrays the bull as any sort of menace, more like a challenge. Surely strength and power aren't easy things to deal with, and one could say the same about freedom and love.

  • Paul Petry's picture
    Paul Petry
    Posted: Thu, 04/20/2017 12:46 pm

    The bull artist has a point.

  • Minivan Man's picture
    Minivan Man
    Posted: Thu, 04/20/2017 01:18 pm

    I tend to agree with di Modica.  It does seem to change the intent of the original art.  

    I suspect this type of "hijacking" would not be well received if statues of MLK or Susan B. Anthony were similarly altered.  

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 04/20/2017 06:55 pm

    Well, it's a little different if the statue is representing a real person, rather than an abstract idea, isn't it? And if he put the statue there himself without permission, why should he expect the city to ask him for permission if they want to allow someone else to add their own?

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 04/21/2017 05:35 am

    Well said, Laura. It is confusing to me how someone would equivocate "standing up to a bull" with "standing up to MLK." There is nothing remotely offensive about the former, and there is about the latter. Surely that is not hard to grasp.

  • Minivan Man's picture
    Minivan Man
    Posted: Fri, 04/21/2017 03:18 pm

    If that's true, then someone is equally justified in adding a third statue to the mix.  Perhaps Caitlyn Jenner on the girl's shoulders.  Or Krusty the clown mooning them both.  It kind of changes things doesn't it?  The point is that the whole display is entirely changed without the artist's consent.  The issue of city permitting etc. is another issue.   Is that too hard to grasp?

  • VT
    Posted: Thu, 04/20/2017 05:29 pm

    I think it's fine.

  • Koni in WA
    Posted: Fri, 04/21/2017 04:43 pm

    I agree with the original artist. When you put your creative or intellectual property out in public you are making a statement - when someone comes along later and adds to it changing the intended message, it would feel like a violation. I think it would be funny if the original artist just took his statue back...then you would have a girl just standing there in the middle of NYC all alone - aparently abandoned by loved ones in the middle of traffic. See what the new artist thinks of that.