|Charging Bull (1987–1989)|
|Artist||Arturo Di Modica|
|Dimensions||11 feet (3.4 m) tall & 16 feet (4.9 m) long|
|Weight||7,100 pounds (3,200 kg)|
|Location||New York City, New York, U.S.|
Charging Bull, which is sometimes referred to as the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull, is a bronze sculpture that stands in Bowling Green in the Financial District in Manhattan, New York City.
The sculpture was created by Sicilian artist Arturo Di Modica. On December 14, 1989 Di Modica arrived on Wall Street with Charging Bull on the back of a truck and illegally dropped the sculpture outside of the New York Stock Exchange. The sculpture was conceived in the wake of the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. Having arrived penniless in the USA in 1970, Di Modica felt indebted to America for welcoming him and enabling his career as a successful sculptor. Charging Bull was his gift back to America and intended to inspire each person who came into contact with it to carry on fighting through the hard times after the market crash for a brighter future.
Di Modica would later recount to the art critic Anthony Haden Guest "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".
The 7,100-pound (3,200 kg) sculpture stands 11 feet (3.4 m) tall and measures 16 feet (4.9 m) long. The oversize sculpture depicts a bull, the symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity, leaning back on its haunches and with its head lowered as if ready to charge. The sculpture is both a popular tourist destination, which draws thousands of people a day, as well as "one of the most iconic images of New York" and a "Wall Street icon" symbolizing Wall Street and the Financial District.
In Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide, Dianne Durante describes the sculpture:
The Bull's head is lowered, its nostrils flare, and its wickedly long, sharp horns are ready to gore; it's an angry, dangerous beast. The muscular body twists to one side, and the tail is curved like a lash: the Bull is also energetic and in motion.
The bronze color and hard, metallic texture of the sculpture's surface emphasizes the brute force of the creature. The work was designed and placed so that viewers could walk around it, which also suggests the creature's own movement is unrestricted — a point reinforced by the twisting posture of the bull's body, according to Durante.
Charging Bull, then, shows an aggressive or even belligerent force on the move, but unpredictably. [...] [I]t's not far-fetched to say the theme is the energy, strength, and unpredictability of the stock market."
Di Modica told the New York Daily News in 1998:
That bull is one of an edition of five. ... I'm hoping the other four will be going to cities all over the world, whenever somebody buys them.
Construction and installation
The bull was cast by the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Di Modica spent some $360,000 to create, cast, and install the sculpture following the 1987 stock market crash as a symbol of the "strength and power of the American people". The sculpture was Di Modica's idea, and in an act of guerrilla art, Bedi Makky Art Foundry and Di Modica trucked it to Lower Manhattan. On December 15, 1989, they installed it beneath a 60-foot (18 m) Christmas tree in the middle of Broad Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange as a Christmas gift to New Yorkers. That day, hundreds of onlookers stopped to admire and analyze it as Di Modica handed out copies of a flier about his artwork.
NYSE officials called police later that day, and the NYPD seized the sculpture and placed it into an impound lot. The ensuing public outcry led the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to reinstall it two blocks south of the Exchange, in Bowling Green, with a ceremony on December 21, 1989. It faces up Broadway at Whitehall Street.
Confusion over ownership
The sculpture technically has a temporary permit allowing it to stand on city property since the city does not own the sculpture, but the temporary permission has lasted since 1989, when city officials said the new location would not be permanent. Art on loan is usually limited to a year's display, and although the city does not buy art, it does accept donations. A writer in the New York Daily News wrote in 1998 that the statue's placement was "beginning to look a mite permanent." According to an article in Art Monthly, Di Modica, as well as officials and New Yorkers, "view it as a permanent feature of Lower Manhattan."
In 2004, Di Modica announced that the bull sculpture was for sale, on condition the buyer does not move it from its present location. Di Modica continues to own the artistic copyright to the statue. In 2006, Di Modica sued Wal-Mart and other companies for illegally benefiting from his copyright, by selling replicas of the bull and using it in advertising campaigns. In 2009, Di Modica sued Random House for using a photo of the bull on the cover of a book discussing the collapse of financial services firm Lehman Brothers.
Evolution into tourist attraction
As soon as the sculpture was set up at Bowling Green, it became "an instant hit." One of the city's most photographed artworks, it has become a tourist destination in the Financial District. "Its popularity is beyond doubt", a New York Times article said of the artwork. "Visitors constantly pose for pictures around it."  Adrian Benepe, the New York City parks commissioner, said in 2004, "It's become one of the most visited, most photographed and perhaps most loved and recognized statues in the city of New York. I would say it's right up there with the Statue of Liberty." In 1993, Arthur J. Piccolo, chairman of the Bowling Green Association, made the same point with the same comparison. Henry J. Stern, the city parks commissioner when the statue first appeared in the Financial District, said in 1993: "People are crazy about the bull. It captured their imagination."
The statue's popularity with tourists has international appeal. One 2007 newspaper report noted a "ceaseless stream" of visitors from India, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Venezuela, and China, as well as the United States. Children enjoy climbing on the bull, which sits "famously" at street level on the cobblestones at the far northern tip of the small park. One popular tourist guidebook assumes that a visitor will want to get his or her picture taken with the statue ("after you pose with the bull ..."). A popular Bollywood movie, Kal Ho Naa Ho features the bull in a musical number, increasing its familiarity with South Asians. One visitor told a newspaper reporter it was a reason for his visit.
In addition to having their pictures taken at the front end of the bull, many tourists pose at the back of the bull, near the large testicles "for snapshots under an unmistakable symbol of its virility." According to a Washington Post article in 2002, "People on The Street say you've got to rub the nose, horns and testicles of the bull for good luck, tour guide Wayne McLeod would tell the group on the Baltimore bus, who would giddily oblige." A 2004 New York Times article said, "Passers-by have rubbed—to a bright gleam—its nose, horns and a part of its anatomy that, as Mr. Benepe put it gingerly, 'separates the bull from the steer.'" A 2007 newspaper account agreed that a "peculiar ritual" of handling the "shining orbs" of the statue's scrotum seems to have developed into a tradition. One visitor, from Mississippi, told the Tribeca Trib she did it "for good luck", and because "there's a kind of primal response when you see something like that. You just have to engage it." The enthusiastic reaction to the sculpture continues into the darker hours. "I've seen people do some crazy things to that bull", said a souvenir vendor, "At night sometimes, when people have been drinking, I’ve seen them do stuff to that bull that you couldn’t print in a newspaper."
Art Market for Charging Bull
Di Modica created a number of variations of the Charging Bull which have been sold to private collectors. Most notably Joe Lewis, who was one time majority owner of Christies, purchased the rest of the original edition. In October 2018 a 6ft highly polished bronze version of Charging Bull went to sale at auction at Phillips and sold for $405,000. The following year in March a stainless steel version went on sale at Sotheby's where it sold for $275,000 despite being in poor condition.
Charging Bull has often been a subject of criticism from an anti-capitalist perspective. The Occupy Wall Street protests used the bull as a symbolic figure around which to direct their critiques of corporate greed. A 2011 image from Adbusters portraying a dancer posed in an attitude position atop the sculpture was used to promote the forthcoming protests. The first gathering of Occupy took place around the sculpture on September 17, 2011, before moving to Zuccotti Park. Because of the protests, the bull was surrounded by barricades and guarded by police until 2014.
The Charging Bull has been likened to the golden calf worshiped by the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt. During Occupy Wall Street on multiple occasions an interfaith group of religious leaders led a procession of a golden calf figure that was modeled on the bull. A large papier-mâché piñata made by Sebastian Errazuriz for a 2014 New York design festival was intended to be reminiscent of both the golden calf and Charging Bull. Further comparisons to the golden calf have been made by Jewish and Christian religious commentators.
In popular culture
- The history of the sculpture and its sculptor was presented in the 2014 Italian documentary film Il Toro di Wall Street, released internationally as The Charging Bull.
- In Mr. Robot, Darlene Alderson (Carly Chaikin) is shown castrating the statue.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charging Bull.|
- 26 Broadway, the building across the street from the statue, to the east
- Art in Odd Places festival
- Qilin – ancient Chinese symbol of prosperity
- Statue of Edward Snowden – another example of New York guerrilla art
- Market sentiment
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