Arturo Di Modica

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Arturo Di Modica
Arturo Di Modica in 1990
Born (1941-01-26) January 26, 1941 (age 78)
NationalityItalian and American
Notable work
Charging Bull

Arturo Di Modica (born January 26, 1941) is an Italian artist, born in Vittoria, Sicily who became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is best known for creating his world famous Charging Bull sculpture which he dropped illegally during the middle of the night on 15th December 1989 outside of the New York Stock Exchange as his gift to the American people. Having arrived in the U.S c.1970 penniless, he had risen up to success and felt indebted to America for everything it had enabled for him. After the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash, he had the idea to create a sculpture intended to inspire all whom came into contact with it to carry on fighting with 'strength and determination' through the hard times for a brighter future. He spent the next two years working on the sculpture paying all of the $350,000 production costs himself [1]. The late night installation made front pages all around the globe with Charging Bull going on to become one of the world's most iconic works of art, drawing millions of visitors each year[2]. Di Modica was later quoted explaining his actions, "My point was to show people that if you want to do something in a moment things are very bad, you can do it. You can do it by yourself. My point was that you must be strong".

Prior to Charging Bull, he spent his early career focused on abstraction. In the late 1960's he worked alongside Henry Moore in the Carrara marble studios and in the early 1980's lived on Crosby St where he built by hand a 5-storey studio a few doors down from Jean Michel Basquiat. Di Modica installed a second similar version of the Charging Bull, nicknamed as Bund Bull, in Shanghai in May 2010; it draws from Western and Chinese culture and looks younger and stronger.[citation needed].

Di Modica worked the majority of his life completely alone outside of the formal art market. He was supported through his career by his private following of important patrons such as Joe Lewis, who reportedly was behind a $206m auction at Christies[3], and Roberto Cavalli. Therefore despite creating one of the most recognisable sculptures in the entire history of art, relatively few works are in private hands. In 2019 his life and works story is to be published for the first time by Bruton Books titled 'Arturo Di Modica, The Last Modern Master' [4].

Di Modica is officially represented by Geist, an international art dealership directed by Jacob Harmer[5].

Early Life & Florence (1941 - 1973)[edit]

Di Modica was born 1941 in Vittoria, Sicily shortly before the Allied forces invaded during World War II. He grew up surrounded by the remains of the ancient Greek and Roman civilisations which he later recounted inspired him to dream big. His father did not want him to become an artist so at the age of 18 he ran away on a steam train destined for Florence in pursuit of his career as a sculptor[6].

Upon his arrival in Florence, Di Modica had to take an assortment of menial jobs in order to survive. Unable to afford to use the local foundries he resorted to building his own as well as forging his own tools to work with. His early efforts culminated with his first major show at Villa Medici in 1968 which primarily features his early rough abstract bronze castings.[7].

By the late 1960's Di Modica began working with marble in the Italian Carrara studios which is where he met Henry Moore who nicknamed him 'the young MichelAngelo'[8]. The influence of Moore on Di Modica was very strong with a whole new style emerging shortly after this period. By 1973, Di Modica had grown frustrated with the limitations of Florence for his career and moved to New York City.[7]

Arrival in New York (1973)[edit]

Upon arriving in New York, Di Modica quickly set up his first studio on Grande Street, Soho. Often large scale marble works could be found left deposited on the street outside of his studio. It was also here that Di Modica caught a young graffiti artist spray painting on his studio door 'Samo' aka Jean-Michel Basquiat. The two artists would later both move onto Crosby Street in the early 1980's as Basquiat experienced his rise to fame.[7]

Rockefeller Centre Abstract Installation (1977)[edit]

In 1977 Di Modica held a major exhibition at Battery Park to which he invited the famous art critic Hilton Kramer to close the exhibition. Uninterested Kramer put the phone down on Di Modica which was the catalyst for him proceeding to load 8 monumental abstract marble works onto the back of a rental truck. He then drove to the Rockefeller Centre where he blocked off 5th Avenue and illegally dropped his works outside after which the rental truck was instructed by Di Modica to depart the scene. Quickly four NYPD officers spotted the offence and came running up with their guns unholstered. Unable to speak much English at the time, Di Modica pushed one of the officers guns aside and handed over a flyer explaining what he was doing. Eventually Mayor Abe Beame was called to the scene who wanted to meet the 'crazy bearded Sicilian' and after issuing a $25 fine, Di Modica was granted permission to temporarily leave his sculptures on exhibit. This late night stunt went on the next day to make front page news of the New York Post, acting as a valuable learning experience. [7]

c.1980 Di Modica purchased a plot of land with a shack on it at 54 Crosby Street. Using up all of his funds paying the downpayment, he had no money left to develop the property so had to resort to salvaging materials. He would drag 7m long salvaged beams of wood through the night to use as building materials. He was then able to purchase 8,000 bricks for $400 from a priest and with these, he began building upwards. Eventually building three storey's up. However he then wanted to build a basement but could not get planning permission from the City. So he started digging into the ground without permission, sneaking the rubble out by night and the new materials in.[7]

Il Cavallo, Lincoln Center (1985)[edit]

During the 1970's Di Modica has primarily been focused on extremely abstract sculpture, often trying to balance two opposing materials together in single works. In the early 1980's he began focusing on the form of the horse. His first major depiction of the horse was a very abstract large scale stainless steel work which was exhibited in Trump Tower in 1984. This sculpture marked a return to a more form-based focus.

Whilst working on the Trump Tower horse, he was also working on a second monumental depiction of a horse biting its tail, almost 10.5ft in height and titled 'Il Cavallo'. The first version of Il Cavallo was finished in bronze with the majority of the work being completed from his 54 Crosby St studio. Upon completion, Di Modica on his own loaded the sculpture onto the back of a kart and attached it to his Ferrari 328GTS on Valentines Day 1985. He then drove to the Lincoln Centre with the sculpture covered in a red sheet with the message 'Be my Valentine N.Y Love AD'.

Charging Bull (1987-89)[edit]

On October 19th 1987 Black Monday struck the American financial markets and the country entered a very difficult period. Di Modica recounted that he felt indebted to the American people for welcoming him into their country which enabled his success and he wanted to give something back. It was this event which conceived Charging Bull.

Di Modica spent the next two years creating the 16-foot bronze, financing all of the $350,000 expenses himself. The sculpture was created in his Crosby Street studio and then cast using a local foundry. Once complete, Di Modica spent the next few nights watching the police patrols on Wall Street trying to find a window of opportunity. After establishing exactly where he wanted to place the bull he went home to rest. On 15 December 1989 Di Modica returned with a group of friends and Charging Bull on the back of a truck. However upon his arrival, during the day time a 40-foot Christmas Tree had been installed exactly where he wanted to place the sculpture. With only four minutes between the police patrols, he announced "drop the bull under the tree - its my gift".[7]

Di Modica stayed by the bull to greet the morning commuters as they came to discover the sculpture. However, while he was away for lunch, the New York Stock Exchange arranged for the sculpture to be collected by a local firm. The late night event went on to make news all around the world, including the front page of the New York Post. [9] Due to the public demand for the bull's return, Parks Commissioner Henry Stern arranged for the sculpture's installation at Bowling Green on 20th December 1989, which is where it can be found to this day.

Charging Bull has gone on to become one of the world's most iconic works of art, drawing millions of visitors each year. The original idea by Di Modica was to inspire each person who came into contact with the sculpture to carry on fighting with "strength and determination" through the hard times for the future. Di Modica later was quoted while in conversation with the famous art critic Anthony Haden Guest as saying, "my point was to show people that if you want to do something in a moment things are very bad, you can do it. You can do it by yourself. My point was that you must be strong".[7]

Art Market[edit]

Di Modica worked the majority of his career completely alone from his studio. Therefore there are relatively few works in private hands despite the fame of Charging Bull. Di Modica built up a private following of collectors throughout his career who he worked with closely including billionaire and ex-majority shareholder of Christies, Joe Lewis[10], and the Italian designer Roberto Cavalli[11].

On 4th October 2018 the first major work came to auction by Arturo Di Modica of a 6ft polished bronze version of Charging Bull at Phillips London which was the first in an edition of 8 and marked '1987-89'[12]. The sale of the sculpture made front page of City AM[13] and on the day sold for £309,000 or $405,000[14]. The other copies of the 16ft Charging Bull edition can be found on Joe Lewis's golf courses and he was also the reported seller of David Hockney's $90.3m world record sale in November 2018 at Christies[15].

In popular culture[edit]

Charging Bull became part of an image macro put out by Adbusters that publicized Occupy Wall Street, featuring a ballerina posed atop it with the text "What Is Our One Demand: #OccupyWallStreet / September 17th. / Bring Tent."[16]


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  7. ^ a b c d e f g Haden-Guest, Anthony (Oct 1, 2018). "Arturo di Modica: Charging Bull".
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  16. ^ McKee, Yates (2016). Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition. Verso Books. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-78478-188-0.