In 1987, When Arturo Di Modica forked out $350,000 of his own money to cast and place a statue of a charging bull on Wall Street, he did so as a gift to the people of New York City. Had he known back then that his bronze effigy to the spirit of commerce would one day be transformed into ‘The charging bull of gender discrimination’, he might have saved his money and good will for a worthier cause.
‘Fearless Girl’, is New York’s latest public sculpture, and she has been defiantly staring down Di Modica’s Charging Bull since her arrival on Wall Street on March 7th, effectively locking the bull in a frozen challenge with her presence. Her appearance the day before International Women’s Day was no coincidence, for she is intended reflect the feminist spirit of the times. Commissioned by State Street Global Advisor’s (‘SSGA takes action to celebrate the power of women in leadership and to urge greater gender diversity on corporate boards’) as a piece of political art to ‘represent the future,’ the four foot bronze child, with her defiant stance and swishing ponytail standing undeterred by the rage of the bull, has proved an instant hit, and thousands have flocked to see her, even scattering flowers at her feet in testimony to the ‘living’ spirit within her. ‘She represents all the young women in the world that want to make a difference,’ said one dewy-eyed pilgrim. She was initially scheduled to leave Wall Street on 2nd of April, but a petition was formed, garnering 28,000 signatures demanding the powers that be make ‘Fearless Girl’ a permanent resident. In response, she had been granted an extension on her temporary permit until February next year.
By placing her counter point to the bull’s rage, a living dynamic has been created between the two statues, a frozen David and Goliath metaphor, only this time recast as the pantomime ideologies of the day – ‘feminism verses the patriarchy’. If the petition succeeds, Fearless Girl will become a permanent foil to Charging Bull, not just a temporary challenge. As might be expected, Di Modica is not happy about this artistic hijacking of his work.
I’m surprised Charging Bull has been allowed to stand unchallenged as long as it has. 7100lb of thrusting horns and bronze testicles was bound to become a target for the ever more fanatical liberal inquisition, who have shown themselves all too eager to make a sport out of statue destruction in recent times. Next phase gender transition
It’s one thing to pull down the upright marble figure of some racist old white man however, but something else all together to a topple a bronze bull. I have to admit there is a cleverness to Fearless Girl – for placing her tiny defiant figure in front of the bull , the latter’s force is muted without having to physically destroy it. Fearless girl is a carefully placed pawn, manoeuvred into position by the invisible hand of progressives, and she has the king in check.
The Italian sculptor, Di Modica sensed this deliberate interference with meaning of his Charging Bull, and moved quickly to defend himself and in a series of emails he accused the creator of Fearless Girl , Kristen Vesbal, along with her corporate commissioners, SSGA, of knowingly conspiring to violate the copyright of Charging Bull, by effectively co-opting it into a new installation. Di Modica pulled no punches on how he felt about the issue, instructing a spokesman to reel off a number of emails protesting the girls presence “They are transforming illegally the message of the bull” a spokesman for Di Modica stated. But Fearless girls creator Kristen Vesbal, was less than sympathetic, ‘Poor Arturo’ she smirked in response to the accusation ‘the bull is beautiful; a stunning piece of art…but the world changes and now we are running with this bull.’
Vesbal’s words are as carefully deployed as the girl herself — a red cape to provoke the bull into charging. A spokesman issued a response on behalf of Di Modica:’There is a very specific reason why you and the others involved in this desecration of Arturo’s work worked in compete secrecy to insure Arturo diModica and others would know nothing about it while you violated Arturo’s copyright. That smug look on your face in the NY Post article and your comment “poor Arturo” in response to his outage over what you have done label you for what you are, an exploiter. If you are capable of any sincerity join us in agreeing to display Fearless Girl where she belongs where she an do REAL good standing in front of the New York Stock Exchange’.
Sadly I suspect Di Modica’s response is perhaps precisely what the team behind the Fearless Girl wants. Expect a highly publicised turf war to take place over the coming year, in which the plucky little deity of feminism symbolically fights to stay her ground in Wall Street, as the big bad bull of patriarchy – symbolically snorts and tries to scare her into leaving. But If Fearless Girl is the true embodiment of the spirit of the times, then she will not be satisfied simply to win the right to an equal footing on Wall Street. She must be seen to slay the patriarchy and stand as the sole victor. She is after all, a publicity stunt created by people well versed in strategy games, and the only reason she really exists is to re-brand SSGA with a more positive, progressive profile, which a symbolic turf war in which they battle on the side of feminism, and all that is good will do just that for them. What about wall streets corporate giants, they may be running this behind the scenes
But the last laugh will be on Vesbal – for the greater part of Fearless Girl’s power is derived from the bull, and if he leaves, he will take the vitality with him. Vesbal will be dismayed to discover that Fearless Girl has little in the way of an independent life force. – In that, she will become a metaphor that radical feminists ought to consider more seriously.