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The “Fearless Girl” statue faces Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull” in Manhattan’s Financial District. (photo by Jillian Steinhauer/Hyperallergic)

The creator of “Charging Bull” is charging its new neighbor with violating his rights. Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor who created and clandestinely installed the 2,000-pound bovine monument to American resilience in Manhattan’s Financial District in 1989, claims the recently installed “Fearless Girl” violates his copyright and trademark, and that it illegally commercializes his work. Through his lawyer, Norman Siegel, he is petitioning the two companies that commissioned the new sculpture from artist Kristen Visbal — financial services firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) and advertising agency McCann New York — as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to have “Fearless Girl” relocated.

“Through ‘Fearless Girl’ — the statue of a young girl facing down a charging bull, State Street Global Advisors exploited the Charging Bull for commercial gains as part of an advertising campaign undertaken without the consent of Mr. Di Modica,” reads a letter sent by the artist’s lawyers to de Blasio, SSGA, and McCann, and forwarded to Hyperallergic. “We request that the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue be removed and placed somewhere else and that damages be awarded to Mr. Di Modica for the violation of his legal, statutory rights.”

Though de Blasio has yet to formally respond to the letter, he indicated his support for “Fearless Girl” last month when he extended its permit through February 2018. The statue was initially installed in front of “Charging Bull” on March 7, the day before International Women’s Day, with a one-month permit. Yesterday, in response to Di Modica’s call for the work’s relocation, de Blasio tweeted: “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl.”

During a press conference yesterday with Di Modica, Siegel insisted, “None of us here are in any way not proponents of gender equality,” according to the New York Times. Rather, as outlined in the letter, the sculptor and his representatives allege that “Fearless Girl” is not only contingent on “Charging Bull” for its meaning, but actively changes the meaning of Di Modica’s sculpture, thereby violating the Visual Artists Rights Act.

“The statue of the young girl becomes the ‘Fearless Girl’ only because of the Charging Bull: the work is incomplete without Mr. Di Modica’s Charging Bull, and as such it constitutes a derivative work of the Charging Bull,” the letter states.

The Charging Bull no longer carries a positive, optimistic message. Rather, it has been transformed into a negative force and a threat. … The inescapable implication is that the Charging Bull is the source of that fear and power and a force against doing what’s right. Plainly, the presence of the statue of the young girl has tarnished and modified the Charging Bull.

Di Modica’s lawyers have also submitted a number of Freedom of Information Law requests to establish whether the city violated its own laws in granting a permit for the sculpture to SSGA and McCann New York. They note that by installing “Fearless Girl” on an extension of the cobblestoned area where “Charging Bull” stands, rather than on the curb proper, the companies were able to go through the city’s Department of Transportation rather than its Department of Parks and Recreation, allegedly making it easier to avoid seeking Di Modica’s approval.

Though the letter professes to want “to amicably resolve these violations,” Siegel noted at yesterday’s press conference, “We never dismiss the possibility of litigation.”

Update, 4/14/2017: On his weekly WNYC radio address, Mayor de Blasio promised to fight any lawsuit filed in an attempt to have “Fearless Girl” removed and further criticized Di Modica’s sculpture. “Let’s be blunt! Charging Bull is a celebration of unfettered capitalism, and I don’t think for lot of people that says it all,” de Blasio said, according to the New York Post. “You can say it is about the spirit of optimism sure, but it is a symbol of Wall Street, and Wall Street to say the least is a double-edge sword.” The comments come in the final two minutes of the mayor’s radio address today.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

7 replies on “Sculptor of Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” Demands Relocation of “Fearless Girl” [UPDATED]”

  1. Good. It’s nothing more than a corporate stunt that uses faux feminism for profit, while making fools of the public. Get rid of it.

  2. I’ve never seen The Charging Bull sculpture as a positive, optimistic message. I’ve always thought of it more as the “negative force and a threat” Di Modica apparently now sees it as.

    Perhaps he’s missing part of the point of art – that the artist’s message sent out into the world and the message received aren’t always one and the same.

  3. It’s an interesting legal argument, ut one with some bizarre implications if he wins. Will architects be able to sue the developer next door if they don’t like the design? Will artists be given the power to choose where they’re hung in museums and galleries based on “context?” The fearless Girl statue is faux feminism anyway, existing to shield attention from a company’s own corporate malfeasance, but it sure has the tourists happy in the age of trump. And now Di Modica is getting free publicity with his cri du coeur. And the lawyers make money. Another happy day in the art world.

  4. well, from my perspective, they are both images that support American resilience. So a little girl surviving in a male dominated world doesn’t represent American resilience? Art is in the eye of the beholder and the message the bull sent me prior to the fearless girl was a bull as a symbol for someone’s advertising. The bull did not represent art to me. The bull’s emotional impact on me as art was nothing more than a greedy gain tactic by a greedy company. Mr. Di Modica’s may think that is what his art represents but it doesn’t represent that to me in the least. Since coming to know through this article that the bull represents America’s resilience, as a female, his art does not represent what so ever the female in American resilience so i would argue that his initial intention in representing America is not only half met. Mr. Di Modica you left the women out of your art and I don’t believe your intention for a minute. (but isn’t that ironically what art is all about: the viewer’s perspective?) How can you lay a claim when art is about perspective and its emotional impact. i think you may be fighting the wrong battle. how about you be honest Mr Di Modica and say it interferes with your advertising rather than using art argument.

    I view you as another man trying to beat down women.

    “The statue of the young girl
    becomes the ‘Fearless Girl’ only because of the Charging Bull: the work
    is incomplete without Mr. Di Modica’s Charging Bull, and as such it
    constitutes a derivative work of the Charging Bull,” the letter states.

    The Charging Bull no longer carries a positive,
    optimistic message. Rather, it has been transformed into a negative
    force and a threat. … The inescapable implication is that the Charging
    Bull is the source of that fear and power and a force against doing
    what’s right. Plainly, the presence of the statue of the young girl has
    tarnished and modified the Charging Bull.

  5. Well, let’s say the “Charging Bull” represents a lot of what’s wrong in America today — bullying, greed, get-what-you-want-at-all-costs, get-out-of-the-way-of-corporate-America, etc., and the “Fearless Girl” represents an alternative. If, indeed, that is the case, then if the “Fearless Girl” is to be removed come Feb. 2018, wouldn’t it only be fitting to remove the (clandestinely installed) “Charging Bull” as well?

    p.s. I love the use of the word ‘charging’. The question is, is it charging too much?
    (A nice little pun!)?

  6. It seems like it might be worth saying that neither of these sculptures are good, and together they don’t really make each other better.

  7. Separately each work is a representative work of art, together they form a conceptual work of art, which is stronger than either of them singly. What I like about Bansky, he does not give a fig once he posits his work… spray over it, tag it, tear it off the wall and ship to a gallery in Miami. The artist gives his work life, its survival (or not ) is largely dependent on others.

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