Wall Street's 'Charging Bull' artist challenges 'Fearless Girl' sculpture

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2017 12:11 PM

By Gina Cherelus and Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The sculptor of Wall Street's "Charging Bull" statue is seeing red over New York City's decision to keep in place the "Fearless Girl" sculpture that now stares it down, saying the adjacent art has changed the meaning of his work and violated his legal rights.

The city's ruling to let the bronze depiction of a defiant girl remain until February 2018 just feet from the bull's flaring nostrils should be reviewed, said a lawyer for sculptor Arturo Di Modica.

"How did the process happen and should permits be revoked?" the attorney, Norman Siegel, said in an interview on Wednesday, adding that his client ought to have been consulted.

"He should have been asked, never was," Siegel said. "There are copyright and trademark infringement issues."

Di Modica told a news conference he envisioned his statue as a positive symbol, but that the addition of the courageous girl turned his bull into a villain.

"It's really bad," Di Modica said, sounding distraught and adding that the bull was loved by people "all over the world."

The 50-inch (127-cm) girl stands fists on hips on a cobble stone plaza, eye-balling the 11-foot (3.4-meter) bull that has occupied the space in Manhattan's financial district for nearly three decades.

Siegel said they want the girl sculpture moved and for Di Modica to be awarded damages for the violation of his legal, statutory rights.

Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted in response: "Men who don't like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl."

'COMMERCIAL PURPOSES'

Initially installed to mark International Women's Day on March 8, the girl statue was meant to be removed on April 2. But the city extended its stay amid ebullient interest on social media, generous press attention and at least two petitions.

State Street Global Advisors, a subsidiary of State Street Corp <STT.N>, said it financed the installation by artist Kristen Visbal to highlight the need for more women on corporate boards. Twenty-five percent of the largest 3,000 U.S. companies have no female directors, State Street noted at the time.

Siegel said the intent was less high-minded, adding, "They did it for commercial purposes."

A plaque originally placed at the girl's feet read: ''Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.'' It refers to an exchange-traded fund dubbed "SHE," which invests in companies with women in top executive posts.

"They have since taken the plaque away," Siegel said. "Which acknowledges perhaps it never should have been there in the first place."

Siegel said he has filed Freedom of Information requests about the permitting process with various city offices. He said he hopes to avoid going to court and would rather negotiate.

The 7,100-pound (3,200 kg) bull itself originally appeared as guerrilla art, installed unofficially in front of the New York Stock Exchange by Di Modica in 1989 and intended to convey the fighting spirit of the United States and of New York.

After police seized the sculpture, public outcry led the city's parks department to reinstall it days later nearby at its current location.

Kate Harding, assistant director of Cornell University Women's Resource Center, said the bull's "hypermasculine, aggressive image" belongs to a different era of New York.

She said images of "Fearless Girl" did not go viral online because people wanted to promote an investment company, "but because she represents a refreshing, inclusive, 21st-century vision of core American values like courage and righteous defiance."

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Frances Kerry)