Is ‘Fearless Girl’ Actually a Bully? ‘Charging Bull’ Defender Decries Lass as Corporate Vandalism

A message for the artist behind "Fearless Girl": "Shame on you."

The
The "Fearless Girl" statue, a four-foot statue of a young girl, defiantly looks up the iconic Wall Street "Charging Bull" sculpture in New York City, United States on March 29, 2017. Photo by Volkan Furuncu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

The Charging Bull/Fearless Girl controversy continues, and the man who gave the iconic bull sculpture a home is weighing in, accusing the corporate patrons behind the new public artwork of knowingly conspiring to violate the copyright of Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created Charging Bull in 1989, by creating what is in effect a new installation.

artnet News was forwarded a copy of an email from one Arthur Piccolo addressed to a number of officials involved in the recent decision to extend the run of the the popular Fearless Girl statue: Bill De Blasio, mayor of New York; Michael Carey, the city’s executive director of the Office of Citywide Event Coordination; and two executives from financial firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), which organized the Fearless Girl exhibition.

“I believe that the evidence will support that both of you, members of your staffs and McCann Advertising and their executives were involved,” wrote Piccolo, “in a highly coordinated carefully planned conspiracy to defraud Arturo DiModica [sic] of his copyright.”

Arturo Di Modica. Courtesy of the artist.

Arturo Di Modica with Charging Bull. Courtesy of the artist.

Who is Piccolo? New York magazine once described as “the bull’s self-appointed guardian”—when Charging Bull is in the headlines, he is never far behind. A local community leader and chairman of the Bowling Green Association, Piccolo is an instrumental figure in the history of the sculpture.

Deposited in front of the New York Stock Exchange under cover of night—it was meant as a symbol of American resilience following the 1987 market crash—the guerrilla artwork was originally unwelcome in Lower Manhattan. It was carted away to Queens, and might have been lost to obscurity had Piccolo not stepped in, working with the Parks Department and then-Mayor Ed Koch to give Charging Bull a permanent home at Bowling Green.

There, it was installed on December 20, 1989, just five days after its original appearance. In the years since, Piccolo has continued to be a vocal proponent of Charging Bull, particularly when it was sealed off by police barricades in the months following Occupy Wall Street. (An image of a dancer improbably perched atop the bull from the magazine Adbusters, which similarly cast the sculpture as a symbol of Wall Street, became a symbol of that movement.)

The Fearless Girl is the work of artist Kristen Visbal, but the project was organized by SSGA and McCann, a financial corporation and an advertising corporation, respectively. As such, despite the seemingly feminist message of the Girl, it has been criticized as an empty corporate gesture looking to capitalize on the current popularity of the women’s movement.

Bull sculptor Di Modica has himself called Fearless Girl “an advertising trick,” and is upset that his work has been recast as a villain standing against women’s equality. In his letter to De Blasio et al., Piccolo goes a step, accusing the companies involved of purposefully hijacking Charging Bull for their own message.

Mayor De Blasio poses with the "Fearless Girl" sculpture. NYC Mayor De Blasio held a photo-op and a press conference to announce that the "Fearless Girl" sculpture installed on International Women's Day 2017 at the triangular intersection of Broadway and Whitehall Street in New York will remain in place through International Women's Day in 2018. Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Mayor De Blasio poses with the “Fearless Girl” sculpture, at the press conference announcing that it will remain in place through International Women’s Day in 2018. Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.

“The ONLY reason Fearless Girl was commissioned by SSGA was to be placed directly in front of Charging Bull,” argues Piccolo. In the current installation, the two statues are “effectively merged into a single image, inseparable from each other.”

For her part, Visbal admits she feels bad that Di Modica is unhappy with the placement of The Fearless Girl and how it has changed perceptions of Charging Bull, but made light of the situation. “Poor Arturo…. The bull is beautiful; it’s a stunning piece of art,” she told the New York Post. “But the world changes and we are now running with this bull.”

Piccolo also provided artnet News with a copy of an email he sent to Visbal in which he chastised her for accepting money from corporate interests to create a work that would violate the copyright of Charging Bull, a work freely donated to the city.

“Obviously you do not deserve to be called an artist,” Piccolo fulminates, “because true artists respect other artists’ work and would NEVER think of abusing another artist’s work for their own purpose, worse completely destroying the meaning of the original work, turning it into a negative image.”

Arthur Piccolo created this rendering of <Em>The Fearless Girl</em> facing off with the New York Stock Exchange. Courtesy of Arthur Piccolo.

Arthur Piccolo created this rendering of The Fearless Girl facing off with the New York Stock Exchange. Courtesy of Arthur Piccolo.

He went on to add that “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.” Piccolo further suggested that Visbal support his efforts to move The Fearless Girl “where she belongs where she [c]an do REAL good, standing in front of the New York Stock Exchange.” (The image above is his rendering of what that would look like.)

Read Piccolo’s letter to the Mayor in its entirety:

Mayor de Blasio & SSGA CEO O’Hanley,

The purpose of my email to to ask valid questions about the Fearless Girl project.

Is this a an illegal conspiracy to defraud Arturo DiModica.

It may well be or not be depending on the responses to the following ….
I believe that the evidence will support that both of you, members of your staffs and McCann Advertising and their executives were involved and are involved in a highly coordinated carefully planned conspiracy to defraud Arturo DiModica of his copyright. My belief is not an allegation until and if validated by the facts that is what I believe they will but have yet to be proven.

Publicly available records already make it clear …

1) A year or so ago SSGA executives developed a plan to get attention for SSGA on Women’s Day 2017 by finding a way to associate SSGA in a “positive” way for itself by utilizing Charging Bull as essential as most representative of Wall Street from your perspective. Without Charging Bull fearless Girl would not be created.

2) That this was done initially in tandem with McCann Advertising or shortly thereafter McCann was engaged in this planning process.

3) That if not even prior to McCann involvement and certainly once they were as necessary procedure at any advertising firm let alone one as large and sophisticated as McCann for any and every advertising and marketing campaign that a check is done to determine if there might be any copyright, trademark or other IP issues in inherent in any marketing or advertising campaign that must be addressed.

4) Logically even before such or without such a search anyone involved in advertising and also at SSGA as well would have expected that Arturo DiModica’s Charging Bull is a work of art and as such protected by copyright and once a required search easily done online it would have been known by participants that Charging Bull is fully registered as a protected copyright owned by Arturo DiModica although such registration is not required.

5) It is also clear that the ONLY reason Fearless Girl was commissioned by SSGA was to be placed directly in front of Charging Bull, and that further the size of Fearless Girl and the very look of Fearless Girl were carefully developed to make a specific impression when placed near and facing Charging Bull. Again Fearless Girl only has meaning paired with Charging Bull and is the basis for Fearless Girl’s size and appearance and facial expression down to the ponytail meant to evoke Charging Bull’s’ tail. Fearless Girl and Charging Bull are effectively merged into a single image inseparable from each other for SSGA’s purpose.

6) The problem was and is that if SSGA, McCann or Mayor de Blasio had notified Arturo DiModica of your plans your ability to proceed would become completely dependent on Arturo’ agreement to let you do so. And based on the fact that neither SSGA, McCann or Mayor de Blasio ever notified Arturo DiModica you were concerned Arturo would not agree because it was crystal clear that doing so would alter the meaning and the view of his work since 1989, and in very negative way as proven turning a positive image of optimism about the future into a scary animal facing off against a little girl.

As Mayor de Blasio said himself at Bowling Green on March 27, 2017, Fearless Girl is “standing up to fear” in standing right in front of Charging Bull. Other public officials and others have heaped various other negatives attributes on to Charging Bull as a result of Fearless Girl being there hat NEVER had any such association with Charging Bull before Fearless Girl was placed right in front of Charging Bull.

7) So contrary to required law a decision was made by all involved to cloak this entire process in secrecy even to the extent that Mayor de Blasio agreed to subvert the required permit process in order to do so. And insure Arturo DImOdica [sic] did not learn of this project either directly or indirectly.

8) The result was that no one other than those involved at SSGa, McCann and Mayor de Blasio and very few members of his staff knew what would take place at Bowling Green on March 8, 2017. Arturo DiModica did not know, NYC Parks Department District Manager did not know, Community Board #1 did not know unless very other NYC permit in such matters.

I believe it is beyond preposterous for McCann and others to argue they had no idea that Charging Bull was copyright protected not that even such ignorance would make this a legal use of Arturo’s copyright.

If you are in possession of a pre-existing professional opinion that no copyright issue is relevant I hope you will release it immediately for anyone to examine. As improbable as that is and as flawed as it would likely be, even with such a document you had professional and moral obligation to inform the artist of Charging Bull that you intended to make use of his work and ti find out if he or his attorney wanted to challenge any such assertion.

All of the above only can be logically explained as a means of insuring Arturo DiModica did not assert his legal copyright option regarding the commercial use of Charging Bull, and not approve Charging Bull’s absolutely essential role in this branding, marketing and advertising campaign by McCann Adverting for State Street Global Advisors.

If the facts bear out my belief by definition participants are involved in a conspiracy to defraud Arturo Dimodica of his copyright protection certainly as a civil fraud matter that might or might no also constitute criminal fraud as if proven this mater required private persons conspiring with government officials.

Please do not destroy any records of any sort that might substantiate my beliefs because to do so may or may not constitute a criminal offense.

Like many other I look forward to finding out the truth and if there is any truth to be found in my concerns. Right now there are certainly unanswered questions that relate to Fearless Girl. If my concerns become unfounded I will most certainly acknowledge it.

I hope that as a result of this email you will tell the entire truth.

Sincerely,

Arthur Piccolo

Read Piccolo’s letter to Visbal in its entirety:

Kristen Visbal,

Any competent sculptor would be embarrassed and regretful for having illegally taken another sculptor’s work and misused it for their own money making purposes. Obviously you do not deserve to be called an artist because true artists respect other artists’ work and would NEVER think of abusing another artist’s work for their own purpose worse completely destroying the meaning of the original work turning it into a negative image or as Mayor de Blasio has said representing “fear.”

Arturo DiModica’s magnificent Charging Bull which he generously donated to NYC at his own expense not like you you were paid  a huge sum by a large corporation which a very poor record of equality for women at their own firm which does not seem to bother you at all.

You were paid to turn a work of sculpture that for 27 years has represented the positive power of Capitalism and optimism for a better future and you have abuse Arturo’s work to make Charging Bull into scary animal that supposedly represents what is wrong with corporations that do not treat women as equals. SHAME ON YOU.

Your other comments to the NY Post are a mockery and complete con stating “The bull is beautiful, it’s a stunning piece of art,”  Really Then you go and vandalize its meaning forever !! And then stating Arturo “As an artist, he’s exceptional.”  Is that why you made sure NOT to tell him what you were going to do with Charging Bull and NOT seek his permission.

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 hat you are an exploiter.

The idea that if some other sculptor decided to use your Fearless Girl to turn her into some kind of negative image and mock your work and also do it in secret you would be complimenting them for abusing your work for their own purpose or allow them to do so is nonsense. Your comments are a perfect definition of hypocrisy.

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. With your approval that can be  done as soon as possible. See below.

Arthur Piccolo

Bowling Green Association


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