One December morning, in 1989, Sicilian artist Arturo Di Modica placed it furtively in front of the Stock Exchange.
Nowadays it is one of the city’s main attractions, a real mascot for the brokers
by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
New York. Charging Bull. The bronze statue, the work of Arturo Di Modica, can be found at the Bowling Green, a short walk from Wall Street
When sightseeing in New York City, it is imperative to visit certain landmarks, without which you may feel you have missed out in capturing the essence of this wonderful, global metropolis. Who has not heard of the Empire State Building and Times Square. And what about Wall Street? Hasn’t this financial district fascinated the minds of many tourists year after year? Unquestionably, one tends to identify this celebrated, but sometimes also infamous, area with an outsized statue of a Charging Bull, which has adorned the cobblestone-paved square of Bowling Green, facing Broadway, downtown, since late December 1989.
We usually assume that the statue symbolizes the upward trend of the financial markets and that the City of New York commissioned it as a testament to the strength of the nation. It comes as a surprise, then, to discover that the placing of the statue was actually not a planned initiative of the City. An Italian artist, Arturo Di Modica, is behind the creation and placement of this massive bronze bull, an act that may well be compared to one of ‘guerilla art’ or a variation of a graffiti grandstand. The statue, embodying the confident approach of Americans to the future of finance, is undoubtedly pleasant, and well received by the residents as well as the large flocks of tourists who see it daily, but its significance, after all, lies mostly in the manner it arrived at its location.
On the morning of the16th of December 1989, to the surprise of the financial operators arriving at the New York Stock Exchange, a wonderful new addition was standing there for them to admire right across the street: a statue of a bull. The size of the sculpture (7,700 lbs, eleven feet tall and sixteen long), meant it could not be ignored, so the building administrators attempted to find out how the installation had taken place without their knowledge. The City denied any involvement in the project, and by mid-morning everyone had realized that the statue was a classic, out-of-season, April Fool’s.
While the search for its origins was being carried out, the artist was calmly and boldly distributing pamphlets regarding his sculpture activities, and the Charging Bull in particular, right by the statue itself. So, if instead of following the missing paper trail they had gone to the front of the building, they would have solved the mystery of the statue in an instant. It had reached its destination on a truck equipped with a gantry and within the eight minutes between one police patrol and the next, the statue had been removed from its wooden crate and easily placed on the ground.
However, no one had ordered the statue, so the statue had to go. Some people assert that the police came and removed the bronze, taking it to an impound lot, as if it was an illegally parked car, while others claim the company that manages the Exchange rented a truck for the removal of the unsolicited sculpture, but never had the opportunity to act upon it. Nevertheless, Di Modica’s ploy had oddly worked, since people had instantly fallen in love with the gleaming, forceful, gargantuan animal. A series of public protests immediately took place and the uproar convinced the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to temporarily install it in the Bowling Green setting, since in the original spot it was unwanted and also seemed oversized.
Since then, the Charging Bull has acquired a notoriety that equals, and perhaps even outdoes, that of the Big Apple’s older attractions. Thousands of tourists come and touch the Bull for ‘good luck,’ most often in inappropriate regions, and they also have pictures taken with it, as if it was a movie star. Many movies have included it in their depiction of Manhattan and it has become an irrefutable symbol of Wall Street.
“I wanted to make a gift to America”, the Sicilian artist recently said of the ruse, “and now Wall Street considers it a good luck charm… a little bit like their mascot.”
And so it was that an Italian sculptor created a symbol of “the strength and power of the American people” and furtively placed it in the heart of New York City, only to see it become, surprisingly, one of its essential pulses.