In a press conference on Wednesday, the Italian-born artist behind Wall Street’s famous “Charging Bull” statue, Arturo di Modica, argued that the recently installed “Fearless Girl” statue was tantamount to a violation of copyright.
Mr Di Modica’s attorney, Norman Siegel, told press that Fearless Girl, placed to celebrate International Women’s Day in March, distorted and twisted the meaning of Charging Bull. “In our opinion, a deliberate choice was made to exploit and to appropriate the ‘Charging Bull’ through the placement of ‘Fearless Girl,'” Siegel said.
Siegel argued that this was in breach of the Visual Rights Act of 1990, which protects artists from having their work “intentionally distorted” in a way that could be “prejudicial” to their reputation, highlighting New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s comments during a press conference announcing that the statue would remain for another year as proof. De Blasio said at the time that ‘Fearless Girl’ represented “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself strength to do what’s right.” Siegel concluded that “the inescapable implication is that ‘Charging Bull’ is the source of that fear and power, and a force against doing what is right.”
This is in contrast to the original vision of Di Modica, who originally installed his bull in the middle of the night opposite the New York Stock Exchange in 1987 as a symbol of American financial resilience after the Black Monday stock market crash. After a public outcry from its subsequent impounding and removal by the city of New York, it was moved into its current position with an official ceremony in 1989.
“My bull is a symbol for America. My bull is a symbol of prosperity and for strength,” he told Marketwatch. During the press conference on Wednesday, he became visibly upset with the new interpretation of his work. “The girl is like – ‘I am here, what are you gonna do?'” he told reporters.
The distortion of the meaning was not the artist’s only complaint. State Street Global Advisors commissioned Kristen Vibal to create Fearless Girl to draw attention to the lack of women on corporate boards in the financial sector. Yet Siegel highlighted the plaque that was originally put under the statue, which read: “Know the Power of Leadership, SHE makes a difference.”
State Street are the creators of the Gender Diversity Index SHE, which invests in companies that put women in top posts. The capitalization of the word “SHE” proved it was a “marketing campaign,” Siegel argued, amounting to commercial use of Charging Bull. “They have since taken the plaque away,” Siegel said. “Which acknowledges perhaps it never should have been there in the first place.”
Letters have been sent to State Street, its New York advertising firm McCann, and De Blasio, detailing the complaints in an attempt to “amicably resolve” the situation and requesting unspecified damages. Siegel said that filing a lawsuit was not out of the question if there was no co-operation on the issue, which currently seems likely. In
In a statement to NBC, State Street said that they were “grateful to the City of New York and people around the world who have responded so enthusiastically to what the Fearless Girl represents — the power and potential of having more women in leadership.” De Blasio himself was much blunter:
Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl. https://t.co/D2OZl4ituJ
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 12, 2017