Last month, on International Women’s Day, artist Kristen Visbal and massive investment firm State Street Global Advisors installed a new statue on Wall Street, a bronze sculpture of a small girl fearlessly staring down the financial sector’s famous “Charging Bull.” And while critics have called ”Fearless Girl” an example of “corporate feminism”—thanks in part to the fact that it features a plaque advertising one of SSGA’s financial products, an index fund that invests in women-led companies—many have embraced its symbolism of a powerful young girl standing strong in the face of challenges, asking Mayor Bill De Blasio to extend the statue’s permitted run.
But the sculptor behind the statue “Girl” is staring down is less than happy about these developments. Artist Arturo Di Modica has expressed his anger at “Fearless Girl”’s placement, calling it an advertising gimmick that changes the context of his original work. Di Modica first installed “Charging Bull” on Wall Street in 1987, as a symbol of New York’s resilience in the face of the late-’80s financial collapse. The illegally placed statue was initially removed by police, but public outcry in support caused it to be permanently installed nearby. Now, Di Modica says, “Fearless Girl”’s placement transforms the bull from a symbol of strength, into a villain menacing young women who want to break into business. (We could make the point that celebrating Wall Street’s strengths was already doing exactly that, but we’re pretty far out in the weeds in terms of our art criticism skills as it is.)
Di Modica and his lawyers haven’t made any legal moves yet, but they’ve made it clear that they want the statue moved, and that they don’t want the bull pictured in any SSGA ads that make use of “Fearless Girl.” (Calls of copyright infringement have also been made.) Neither SSGA nor Visbal have commented on Di Modica’s press conference, although Visbal earlier said she was sad to hear of her fellow artist’s distress, while also noting, “The world changes and we are now running with this bull.” (Honestly, it probably makes more sense for them to let the public optics of “giant bull guy wants strong little girl to get out of his way” just play out.) Mayor De Blasio, though, made it clear that “Fearless Girl” probably isn’t going anywhere any time soon: