Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fearless Girl only serves to improve Charging Bull

The recent addition of a little girl, staring with resolve and a measure of disapproval and confrontation at the Charging Bull on New York's Wall Street, has garnered a good deal of admiration and approbation since the installation of the new bronze statue. Most people see it as a welcome foil to the machismo and testosterone represented by the bull, which can itself be seen as a reflection of the prevailing state of affairs on Wall Street and in the financial industry as a whole.
However, not everyone is happy about it - when were they ever? The artist who created the bull, Arturo Di Modica, is livid. And you can kind of see his point: his career-defining work of art has been usurped, even over-shadowed, by an artistic (and perhaps commercial) decision over which he had no control. There again, his bull was originally plonked down in front of the New York Stock Exchange back in 1989 without any invitation, permission or license, installed under the cover of night as a kind of guerrilla art. Does he, then, retain ANY artist's rights?
The other criticism being leveled against the new addition, both by Di Modica and others, is that it is merely a thinly-veiled advertising campaign for State Street Global Advisors, the company that commissioned the Fearless Girl statue from artist Kristen Visbal. State Street Global Advisors is not known for its strong advocacy of women, numbering just 5 women among its leadership team of 28, and it has been facing its own PR challenges of late, with several high profile lawsuits directed against it. And, yes, the statue does indeed boast a small street-level plaque in the company's name. But corporate patronage of the arts is just the name of the game nowadays, just as historically patronage came from wealthy burghers, royalty and churchmen. And remember, Di Modica himself has profited greatly from his Wall Street Bull statue (which he once considered selling the for $5 million), and he has even sold replicas to other cities.
Certainly, Fearless Girl does indeed change the meaning and impact of Charging Bull, both as a work of art and as a symbol. But, as I see it, that's not nesessarily a bad thing.

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