Defending ‘Fearless Girl,’ Bill de Blasio Brands ‘Charging Bull’ Artist a Sexist
The battle in the Financial District continues to rage.
Another salvo has been fired in the battle over Fearless Girl. In the face of criticism of his decision to extend the run of the bronze sculpture of a courageous little girl facing off with the Financial District’s famed Charging Bull, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to blast the bull’s sculptor Arturo Di Modica, age 76.
The Fearless Girl, a corporate marketing stunt with an appealing feminist message, infringes upon his rights by turning the iconic Charging Bull into an advertisement without his consent. The bull had originally been installed in 1989 as a guerrilla artwork, meant as a symbol of American resilience in the face of the Wall Street market crash.
“Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl,” tweeted Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The statue, installed on March 8, International Women’s Day, features a small girl with a ponytail, legs akimbo and arms at her hips as she faces down Di Modica’s bull. The new artwork was installed by financial firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) and advertising firm McCann New York to underscore the importance of increasing female leadership in the financial sector.
In response to the mayor’s remark, Arthur Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association and a devoted defender of Charging Bull who worked with former Mayor Ed Koch to secure its permanent home, sent out an email blast publicizing the tweet.
“Mayor de Blasio has allowed State Street Global Advisors to turn Bowling Green and Charging Bull into a major ADVERTISING campaign for SSGA,” wrote Piccolo. “And State Street Global Advisors promoting itself as standing for EQUALITY for women when SSGA does NOT practice EQUALITY at their firm.”
(Piccolo has been tireless in his anti Fearless Girl email campaign: subject lines include “FEARLESS GIRL IS A TROJAN HORSE – READ ALL ABOUT IT !!,” and “FEARLESS GIRL AND THE THREE DWARFS,” in which De Blasio plays the role of dwarf.)
Overuse of caps lock aside, Piccolo makes a valid point: Hyperallergic ran the numbers, and only 18 percent of SSGA leadership positions are held by women. The company’s public art stunt may make a bold public statement against the gender gap, but they have a lot of work to do in that department themselves.
Much like Charging Bull, given a permanent home on Bowling Green to satisfy the public, Fearless Girl has had its run extended through 2018 due to overwhelming demand—a result that won’t be allowed to stand, if Di Modica and Piccolo have anything to do with it.
Following the Mayor’s rebuke, Di Modica held a planned press conference in the afternoon, appearing with a half dozen lawyers to announce his plans to sue SSGA. “I’m not a ‘poor Arturo,’” he insisted, according to the New York Post. “I am an artist!”
Kristen Visbal, the artist commissioned by SSGA to sculpt Fearless Girl, had previously told told the New York Post that she pitied Di Modica, and felt bad that the bull, meant as a symbol of American strength and resiliency, had been recast as a villain through the addition of her work.
Norman Siegel, Di Modica’s lawyer, contends that Fearless Girl is a form of advertising, and therefore violates commercial use laws, according to the Post. A plaque originally installed with the piece read ”Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” referring to SSGA’s Gender Diversity Index SHE, an exchange-traded fund investing in companies with significant women leadership.
“[Di Modica] should have been asked, never was,” Siegel told Reuters. “There are copyright and trademark infringement issues.” He will seek damages for his client and that ask that Fearless Girl be removed.
Meanwhile, De Blasio has been outspoken in his admiration of Fearless Girl, telling reporters, according to Agence France Presse, that “she is inspiring everyone at a moment when we need inspiration,” and that the artwork “means so much to the people of New York.”
For their part, Di Modica and Piccolo have suggested Fearless Girl be moved to face the New York Stock Exchange. “I am not against women,” said the artist. “I am against this advertising trick.”
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