The gashes left after the attacks have attracted large groups of tourists (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

A man armed with a makeshift spiked metal banjo attacked the bronze “Charging Bull” statue in New York City’s Financial District on Sunday, September 7, leaving the bull with a six-inch gash and several other deep scratches on its right horn. Tevon Varlack, a 42-year-old truck driver from Dallas, was arrested shortly after the attack. He was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and criminal possession of a weapon, but was later released.

The incident occurred Sunday morning on Broadway near the Bowling Green in Lower Manhattan, where the statue is located. Varlack, eyewitnesses said, was loudly castigating President Donald Trump while striking the statue with his spiked banjo. “He just started wilding out, hitting the bull over the head,” a witness, Luis Cruz, told the New York Times. “And every time he would bang it, he would say the same thing over and over.” According to Cruz, Varlack was using expletives against the president. According to the police, he was also ranting about God.

Individuals posing with the damaged bull (photo by Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

A Manhattan Criminal Court judge ordered Varlack to “stay away from the landmarks in this city,” the New York Post reported. “Do not go back and visit the bull,” Judge Althea Drysdale told the vandal during his arraignment in court on Sunday. Since then, the wounded bull has become a tourist attraction.

Sculptor Arturo Di Modica installed the “Charging Bull” in the Financial District in 1989 as a work of guerrilla art to symbolize the “strength and power of the American people” in the wake of the stock market crash in 1987. Modica self-financed the sculpture and presented it as a gift to the city. It has quickly become a popular tourist destination, and it remains so until now. But to some, the bull represents Wall Street’s rampant capitalism. During the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, the New York Police Department (NYPD) barricaded the statue for more than seven weeks and monitored it 24 hours a day to protect it from protestors. 

While it has not been damaged during the Occupy Wall Street protests, Di Modica’s bull suffered from other attacks in the past. It was doused with blue paint both in 2008 and in 2017. And in 2010, guerilla artist Olek “yarn-bombed” the statue with a purple and camouflage crochet.

Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull” (1989) (via Sam Valadi’s Flickrstream)

“The guy wanted publicity and he did it for publicity,” Di Modica said about the attacker in an interview with the New York Post. “He knew he was going to be arrested and he knew he was going to be in the paper. It wasn’t something that he wanted to hit the bull,” he said. Di Modica estimated the damage at $10,000 to $15,000. But in an interview with the New York Times, Fernando Luis Alvarez, a manager of the gallery that represents Di Modica, estimated that repairs could cost between $75,000 and $150,000.

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...