Creator of the “Charging Bull” Threatens Lawsuit Over “Fearless Girl”

imgresThere is an interesting legal claim raised by Arturo Di Modica, the sculptor of Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” statue.  The bull has long been the cherished symbol of Wall Street.  However, recently a small sculpture of “Fearless Girl” was added to face the bull.  The result is a striking image but a different image from the original art work.  Di Modica says that the addition improperly changed his work and constitutes copyright infringement.  The addition of “Fearless Girl” was the result of a commission by State Street Global Advisors, an investment firm, to call attention to the gender pay gap and the need for more women on corporate boards in the financial sector.

Di Modica is relying on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which bars  “intentional distortion” of art work.  The Act states the following:

17 U.S. Code § 106A – Rights of certain authors to attribution and integrity

(a) Rights of Attribution and Integrity.—Subject to section 107 and independent of the exclusive rights provided in section 106, the author of a work of visual art—

(1) shall have the right—

(A) to claim authorship of that work, and
(B) to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of any work of visual art which he or she did not create;
(2) shall have the right to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of the work of visual art in the event of a distortion, mutilation, or other modification of the work which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation; and

(3) subject to the limitations set forth in section 113(d), shall have the right—

(A) to prevent any intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification of that work which would be prejudicial to his or her honor or reputation, and any intentional distortion, mutilation, or modification of that work is a violation of that right, and
(B) to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work is a violation of that right.

Mayor De Blasio may have given the artist additional support for the lawsuit in his unveiling speech and later his taunting of the artist.  At the unveiling, De Blasio stated that the statue symbolized “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself strength to do what’s right.”

The attorney said Wednesday that, “the inescapable implication is that ‘Charging Bull’ is the source of that fear and power, and a force against doing what is right.”  That is obviously different from the intended message of the piece to depict a bull market.

Then De Blasio blasted the artist for objecting to the inclusion of “Fearless Girl:” “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl.”

Regardless of the merits of this action, that comment strikes me as unfair to the artist who has a legitimate objection that his art is being changed in a fundamental way.  That objection does not mean that he is insensitive to the message of “Fearless Girl.” It means that that was not the message of his piece, which is now viewed as part of the overall artistic expression of “Fearless Girl.”  It will make for an interesting challenge.

What is ironic is that Di Modica himself installed the bull without permission in 1987 and the piece was removed. It was later reinstalled by officials.

143 thoughts on “Creator of the “Charging Bull” Threatens Lawsuit Over “Fearless Girl””

    1. It’s been going on for years. Privatization of the Post Office with Feinstein’s husband taking advantage of his wife’s political position. Disgusting, particularly in – but by no means limited to – California. Go Dems! You’ll beat the Repubs to hell by a hair.

      And you are absolutely right, it’s shameful this and many many stories like it are not touched by the main stream media with a ten foot pole.

      1. I believe the contract awarded for California’s High Speed Rail project has a high-level political connection as well. And again, it’s to Feinstein’s husband, Blum.

  1. When the stock market tanks then we can have a statute of a bull being hung on a cross. Call him Hey Zeus. Then the bear statue could be facing the bull and he could have a sign on his chest which says: Hey Zeus, full of juice, dont let your meat loaf. Nein ich winterlagen.

  2. In theory, the French “droit morale” protects an artist’s work, but there’s a reason why this country has rejected it for so long: the solution never seem to satisfy anyone. This is more than a distortion of the work. It makes the sculpture part of an entirely new work of art altogether, and without the artist’s permission. But could a judge order the removal of the girl? To be put where? This is one case where mediation may fix the problem. I think she could symbolize “empowerment” at other locations where another work of art is not appropriated by the government for a purpose that has nothing to do with its original placement. After all, the location of the bull on Wall Street is actually part of its meaning.

    1. While I would argue about elevating that decorative Bull to the level of “art”, you at least make your point in a well thought out sequence. There is little to fear. The girl will be moved. She not only makes a point about empowering woman, she makes an even more salient point about exploitation and greed up against a determined little girl. That latter is almost certainly not the intention of the sponsors of the statue, if of the artist, but the meaning, inadvertent or not, is so blatant that the ensemble undermines both parties actual interests and it is only a matter of time before that is apparent to both sides.

      1. Brooklin Bridge – since both are temporary installations, not paid for by anyone, I would take the stand that they are advertising for their artists. As such, they are billboards and should be treated as billboards, not as works of art. When you hire a billboard you cannot control what is on the next billboard (which has had some very funny connections from time to time).

        1. I like the cut of your jib on this one, Paul. I don;t know about payment status, but your comparison to bill boards is astute to say the least. Naturally, for that area, the bill boards are going to be rather lavish. That said, it’s hard to find anything particularly sacrosanct in either of them for which Bill Boards fits quite well. Get a life, as they say.

          I would love to know what the creator of the girl was actually going for. Was it really woman’s rights alone? It’s a little hard to believe there was no satire intended. If not, why a girl and not a woman?

          Anyway, personally, I find it a priceless retort to people who take themselves way too seriously.

          1. Brooklin Bridge – never believe what an artist says their work is about. They are usually lying just to sell the work. If they don’t know, their response is, what do YOU think it is about? My personal favorite. Or, if you have to ask, you don’t understand it. Each of those responses lets you know that artist has no clue what their end product is. 🙂

            1. Paul, I am a proponent of art for art’s sake. I find it tiresome to read artist’s statements. The work should “speak” for itself – it’s all subjective anyway and open to interpretation.

              “Art for art’s sake, a slogan translated from the French l’art pour l’art, which was coined in the early 19th century by the French philosopher Victor Cousin. The phrase expresses the belief held by many writers and artists, especially those associated with Aestheticism, that art needs no justification, that it need serve no political, didactic, or other end.”

  3. Maybe Trump will bomb it? He just dropped the biggest non-nuke ever–what a man—an Afghanistan. It’s like Christmas! I’m so proud.

    1. Trump has capitulated 100% to his Campaign promises. Functionally, he is now the spitting image of Hillary. What someone called genius in another thread is simply an utterly feckless lack of back bone.

      Trump took what, about 100 days (and change) to come full circle and comply utterly with the powers that be? He is now for replacing Assad, for war in the Middle East, for NATO aggression, against rapprochement with Russia, for anything that smacks of banks and big business and against anything that might help the little guy.

      What is unsettling, however, and which we must be grateful to Trump for a peek into, is the immense power of the establishment that brought him so utterly to heel so quickly. This is a very unusual, and I suspect brief, peek into the way the establishment works when it doesn’t get it’s way. Anyone who doubts the existence of this force that controls both parties down to the smallest significant detail, can see it plain as day in operation with Trump acting exactly like the ventriloquist’s puppet. I never said Rapprochement! I said, bombardment.

      And while Trump is a buffoon, and couldn’t hold on to a conviction to save his life, the question must be seriously asked, how long could Sanders or Warren or even Tulsi Gabbard hold out?

      1. Trump has always been a violent Muslim hater so bombing them comes naturally. I can’t say the same for Sanders, Warren or Gabbard so highly doubt a similar outcome. As to Clinton, would she have been the first to use the monster bomb? We will never know the answer to that question and now Trump can claim the title. I agree with Greenwald that Trump is carrying out his campaign promise to “bomb the shit”out of them.

        1. Greenwald has been on a bit of a rant about Trump being consistent with his campaign promises. Technically, he has indeed made statements at one time or another that could support just about anything including diametric opposites, but in general he made fairly clear commitments about rapprochement with Russia, about Nato being no longer necessary, about the Wars in the Middle East being an endless and fruitless quagmire, about Health Care being something you shouldn’t mandate people into coercive relationships with private insurance companies over, and so on. He has made 180’s on each and every one of them.

          As to Hillary, yes we do know what she would do from past experience and there is absolutely no doubt it would be, bombs away.

      2. BB re: “Functionally, he is now the spitting image of Hillary.” LOL – Donald Clinton?

        1. Similar to Clinton on war but much worse on the environment and other issues. Sessions is turning out to be quite a nasty appointment in terms of civil liberties.

          1. I don;t think you realize what Clinton stood for regarding the enviornment. Profit. More money for her foundation. She is simply more hypocritical and sneaky about it than Trump. Functionally, she’s his evil twin.

        2. Trump delivered on two campaign promises in one day……He defunded Planned Parenthood and bombed the crap out of them.

      3. BB re: “how long could Sanders or Warren or even Tulsi Gabbard hold out” Good question. Warren would certainly cave – if you play close attention she’s all talk after Obama brought her to heel and she didn’t have the guts to endorse Bernie. Sanders also was brought to heel – who knows what they threatened him with? But Gabbard is truly a wildcard and I think she has integrity and would not give in. She’s already stated she is not afraid of the Clintons. Maybe we’ll have the opportunity to find out despite the Demoncrat Establishment attacks.

        Coward Dean attacks:

        1. Autumn, I agree with all you say about Gabbard. I’d vote for her in an instant if she were to run for President (if Bernie was also running I would have to think). But the question I raised doesn’t have to do with her commitment, nor that of Bernie, nor even with her or Bernie’s (well proven) skill at negotiation or governing. Rather, my question has to do with the inexorable raw power and limitless purse of the establishment. Thanks to Trump, we have seen a tip of the ice berg with this Russia-Gate fiasco and now the Syria blackmail and it’s far more extensive than even I thought before hand.

          I have serious reservations that when we think of so and so as individuals that might “get something done” in DC, we are missing the mark. Not that we should give up, but we may well have to adapt our understanding of what’s going on. A new party seems more and more critical and even that would only be a beginning.

          1. BB – I get it – the power of the entrenched corporados/special interests etc. Yet I still believe there are individuals who can and will stand up with the full support of their voters. Establishment Dems are an obstacle and this needs to be brought to the attention of the Obama/Clinton cult members. As far as a new party – do you really think that’s a possibility in this country?

        2. Well said Autumn. I have been in even more disgust after I saw Dean’s comments. We’ll hope that Gabbard’s stoic sensibilities will win out in the end.
          Apparently, all’s good with the Democrats now. Especially since Zakaria just proclaimed that “Trump just became President” after the strike. There is apparently no bottom that is low enough for them to sink to.

    2. Jill – off topic – have you been paying attention to the congressional special election in Kansas? The Dims refused to support a Berniecrat Progressive. They’d rather have a neo con / neo lib on the HIll even if he is Republican. For my part I hope Jon Ossoff loses the special election in GA – endorsed by Pelosi, Lewis, Thompson – all Establishment Dims.

      I was astonished to find this article in The Guardian as they usually trash Trump and elevate Clinton.

    3. Tunnel busting, wasn’t it? What does the aftermath of a 20,000 bomb look like? I’m shocked and awed just thinking about it.

  4. Why not just draw mustaches on artwork in a museum?

    It is patently unfair to the artist to change the very nature of his work, making a symbol of a strong economy into something terrifying, with the inclusion of a piece from another artist. It changes the nature of his work.

    They could have, and should have, created a whole new culture of some menacing figure with the “fearless girl”, so that it was its own self contained piece. Or they could have taken a photograph of a girl in front of the bull, to make a statement. But this permanent sculpture permanently makes the bull a negative, threatening piece, which must be very difficult for the artist. Plus it misunderstands his message.

    I don’t know if there is a legal argument, but ethically I think it was wrong to make a permanent mockery of this famous artist’s piece. From now on, when tourists photograph his work, his message has become one that has been twisted very negatively. Sad.

    What if someone built his dream home, and then someone posted a sign in front that said “This Home Sucks!”

    1. Sorry to disagree with you so much on this one, Karen, but it seems to me there is quite a difference between someone drawing a mustache on a piece of art work – which would indeed elicit a general groan at such childish antics – and this piece which so effortlessly draws the whole premise behind the bull into such a dubious light. The fact people are so infuriated is the tip off for me that the challenge is serious.

      (And I don’t think the bull represents a healthy economy since it was there, exactly the same, in 2007 when we had the worst recession since the Great Depression. It represents Wall Street, which, love it or hate it, is not the same thing)

      Respectfully, as always… BB

      1. (And I don’t think the bull represents a healthy economy since it was there, exactly the same, in 2007 when we had the worst recession since the Great Depression. It represents Wall Street, which, love it or hate it, is not the same thing)

        The bull’s been there through several business cycles. The economic contraction in 2008-09 lasted less than a year and was 1/6th the size of the contraction in 1929-33, so the comparison between the two is misleading. While we’re at it, the year-over-year decline in production in 2008-09 was smaller than that registered in 1937-38 and 1945-46. Peak unemployment rates in 2009 were lower than they were in 1982, much less 1933.

        1. As usual, no support whatsoever for your statements.

          There are many actual economists who believe the melt down of 2007/2008 was worse than the Great Depression in many respects.

          “As a scholar of the Great Depression, I honestly believe that September and October of 2008 was the worst financial crisis in global history, including the Great Depression. If you look at the firms that came under pressure in that period. . . only one . . . was not at serious risk of failure. So out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States, 12 were at risk of failure within a period of a week or two.”

          And the average worker, not the .001% you slavishly defend, is still hurting terribly. Inconsistent part time jobs with no benefits for those lucky enough to have found anything at all is not an economy; it’s fast becoming a Banana Republic.

          1. From the first link:

            We’ve repeatedly pointed out that there are many indicators which show that the last 5 [article published in 2012] years have been worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, including:

            The housing slump

            The bank charge off rate

            The collapse in world trade

            The withdrawal of short-term credit

            The level of inequality between rich and poor (too much inequality destroys economies)

            The interconnectedness of financial systems and economies worldwide (interconnectedness leads to financial instability)

            Runaway spending and greed


            What Do Economists Say?

            Indeed, many economists agree that this could be worse than the Great Depression, including:

            Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke

            Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan (and see this and this)

            Former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker

            Economics scholar and former Federal Reserve Governor Frederic Mishkin

            The head of the Bank of England Mervyn King (and see this)

            Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz

            Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman

            Former Goldman Sachs chairman John Whitehead

            Economics professors Barry Eichengreen and and Kevin H. O’Rourke (updated here)

            Investment advisor, risk expert and “Black Swan” author Nassim Nicholas Taleb

            Well-known PhD economist Marc Faber

            Morgan Stanley’s UK equity strategist Graham Secker

            Former chief credit officer at Fannie Mae Edward J. Pinto

            Billionaire investor George Soros

            Senior British minister Ed Balls

            1. Plus, the slowest recovery since the Great Depression worsened the effects of this recession. We still have quite poor job participation, and too many people cobbling together work with part time jobs. It’s not a vibrant environment.

              1. Employment to population ratios as we speak are about 0.60. That isn’t ‘poor’. The median for the period running from 1972 to the present is 0.604.

          2. As usual, no support whatsoever for your statements.

            Production statistics are available for your perusal from the Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce, handy interactive tables included.

            There are many actual economists who believe the melt down of 2007/2008 was worse than the Great Depression in many respects.

            There are no economists who adhere to that view. Any academic or corporation economist capable of reading descriptive statistics on production levels knows that statement is nonsense.

          3. And the average worker, not the .001% you slavishly defend, is still hurting terribly. Inconsistent part time jobs with no benefits for those lucky enough to have found anything at all is not an economy; it’s fast becoming a Banana Republic.

            Mean compensation per employee in chained (2007) dollars stood at $54,470 per year in 2007 and stands at $58.913 in 2016. The economy could have been more dynamic, but the average worker is not hurting terribly. Employment-to-population ratios did decline from about 0.64 to 0.60, but they’re still within normal ranges and reflect to some extent larger post-war birth cohorts moving into retirement age.

      2. Arturo Di Modica, the artist, had copyrighted and trademarked his bull, which he created after the stock market crashes of the 1980s. It was a sign of hope.

        Now he is talking about turning the bull around. If he moved the bull so that his butt is in the girl’s face, that would change the message of “Fearless Girl”, also. Grin. Personally, I think that would be a funny way to explain his point, but I’m not PC and I’m sure the headlines would be hideous.

        I have no idea if the artist’s copyright and trademark gives him protection against the message of his work being so subverted. I just love art. So I hate to see an artist’s work, especially a famous one, have its message be so completely reversed, granting a negative and threatening overtone to what was formerly a symbol of perseverance and success.

        I found this interesting site about the Charging Bull:

        “Arturo Di Modica first conceived of the Charging Bull as a way to celebrate the can-do spirit of America and especially New York, where people from all other the world could come regardless of their origin or circumstances, and through determination and hard work overcome every obstacle to become successful. It’s this symbol of virility and courage that Arturo saw as the perfect antidote to the Wall Street crash of 1986.

        Arturo worked on the now world-famous Charging Bull for over two years at his studio on Crosby Street in the Soho district of Manhattan. It was his most ambitious and massive work of sculpture to date, so large that the Bull had to be cast in separate bronze pieces and then laboriously welded together and hand finished. Once completed at the end of 1989, it weighed over three and a half tons and measured 18 feet long.

        Of course, only one place would do for this gift of encouragement to New York and the world.”

        To have his art now be trying to “intimidate” or “terrorize” the dauntless statue of a little girl must be very demoralizing and disrespectful for the artist.

        I know there are larger issues in the world, with kids in war zones. So in the grand scheme of things perhaps an artist face off doesn’t really matter. But it does bother me, as an untutored art lover.

        Don’t worry about our divergent opinions. I don’t think there’s anyone in the world with which I agree on all things, and hearing the other side of the issue is always important.

        1. Karen – I don’t think the artist has really worked this out. If he can move the bull, the girl can be moved. Check and mate. 😉

          1. Oh God, this could end up being the next cult icon – the girl chasing the bull around NY. On the other hand, how much revenue would the repeated permitting generate for the City?

            1. Karen – I am not sure what they are charging for permits, but NYC could us the money. 🙂

  5. What we need there on the street now is a bear statue. A Right To Arm Bears statue. Bear markets need a model too. The Framers were dyslectic. They meant: The Right To Arm Bears when they framed the Second Amendment.

  6. OH,,, Get REAL! Do these people who consider themselves “artists” have nothing more to worry about??? Come on!! Get over yourself.

  7. So I guess all of you defenders of the little girl would be just as ok with a phallic symbol placed right next to Venus De Milo’s mouth or a statue of an Isis terrorist ready to swing a sword through the little girls neck.

    1. Jim throws the hammer down. When the burden of truth, proof, and discipline need to be applied, don’t look for Democrats. Just opt for the situational ethic. “I don’t like it so it needs to go away.”

      Had to ramp up the grief level a bit. Too much yawning among participants.

  8. This is certainly thought-provoking, but it seems like a local administrative permitting issue to me, and the extent of protection given with that permit, not an issue of “integrity” because integrity must withstand political sentiment and the City’s First-Amendment speech rights. Could poor Arturo’s honor or reputation be prejudiced by a political demonstration against the sculpture? I think any alleged prejudice to the sculptor under 106A(a)(3)(A) gives way to the City’s speech rights.

    Could a Nazi sculptor of the prototypical ideal of Aryan ancestry during the Third Reich claim with a straight face the same alleged harm caused by NYC for presenting an adjacent photograph of Einsatzgruppen Schutzstaffel (SS) death squad forcing a Ukranian child to stand for a photo along side his murdered family? I don’t think so, and the lawsuit should be short-circuited early on.

    1. I guess so, really. Art is often troubling. I find the Andre Serrano Piss Christ deeply offensive as a direct philosophical attack on the underlining moral and ethical basis of western civilization with possibly unintended support and rationalization of acts as illustrated above (it is unarguable to say that Christ did not support that kind of human activity). But I guess he would have a case too if someone took his jar and put it in a bigger jar of IPA.

        1. That works! BTW, nice write up on Piss Christ Autumn. Personally, I can separate the work like the article does, but such is art.

  9. BS is the theme, corporate porn is the medium, brutal exploitation is the message. And a little girl makes it crystal clear. What a magnificent, ironic, and almost certainly unintended, take down.

    1. And a little girl makes it crystal clear.

      What the little girl makes clear is that there are artists promoting social fiction. What you make clear is that there’s an audience who gobble up social fiction.

        1. Sayeth the man who began his most recent remark, “BS is the theme, corporate porn is the medium, “.

          1. You’re doing great, Toads! You got the words right, and in the right order! Understanding what they mean and the tone in which they are used, well, give it time…

            But given your touching concern, rest assured I’m not loosing any sleep.

  10. Modica or however ya spull his name, put his bull in the China shop. Now, someone else might put up a statue behind the girl posing a threat to her. Perhaps a midget looking up her dress. Then some statue looking like de Blassio could be put behind the midget with a foot up, ready to stomp on the midget.

    Meantime: Bulls Need Love Too! stickers need to be put on and about the area.

  11. There’s a statue along the coast in San Diego county dubbed “The Cardiff Kook” that routinely has been “reinterpreted” over the years. Many don’t like the original piece so they adorn it with some very creative stuff.

    I can see the same thing happening with the two pieces in this story. Perhaps the Bull’s artist should make a statue of DeBlasio with a shovel in his hand scooping up a pile of manure behind the bull.

      1. Oh, and dressing up the Kook diverted outrage from this surfing town having a statue of a surfer that is just…wrong. Plus they never put in the actual wave that was supposed to be there due to financial constraints. So the town went from absolutely hating it to making it a cult icon with dressing it up. Now it’s kind of an affectionate eye sore.

        My own favorite cultural icon is the Fremont Troll. (That poor VW.)

        1. Karen – thanks for the link to the Troll. My favorite are the Muffler Men. There is actually a site that tracks them. Many have been re-purposed like the one at NAU who is now a Lumberjack /w axe,

Comments are closed.