Many people are now aware of the “Fearless Girl” statue that was dropped on Wall Street March 7th, the day before International Women’s Day, and the recent controversy that has arisen because of it. The reason for the controversy is known, but for those who don’t frequent their Facebook new feed, allow me to enlighten you.
The statue was sculpted by artist Kristen Visbal and commissioned by McCann New York and client State Street Global Advisors. A financial corperation that claims to be promoting females in leadership. I say “claims” because some questions have arrised about their motives, if they are just another big money hungry organization using “Girl Power” to promote their buisness. This may not be the case, but if it is it makes me quite sad. I’m not writing about this arm of the controversy so I would rather not dig deeper into that. The part of the story I want to talk about is the artist perspective and ethics.
As anyone can see, the Fearless Girl is facing down the perturbed Charging Bull, an iconic symbol of New York’s Financial District. The Charging Bull was sculpted by Arturo Di Modica and illegally dropped on Wall Street in 1989. Di Modica created the bull after the Stock Market crash of 1987 as a symbol of the American people charging back from financial crisis. Due to the bull’s sheer size and weight New York City didn’t really push too hard to have the illegally placed statue removed. And, as a side note, how in the wide wide world of sports did Di Modica get the bull there in the first place? Must have been one wicked night.
Now, let’s talk about the Fearless Girl. Look at her! She is strong, powerful, and well crafted. I’d love for any girl to stand like this, facing down her problems with strength and attitude. I want my nieces to one day have this kind of “Don’t mess with me” persona. It’s totally amazing. But, at least one person has a problem with her. Arturo Di Modica.
He doesn’t have a problem with the message she inspires (at least I don’t think so). The problem is that she is facing down his work of art, and he is claiming an issue of artistic rights and ethics.
Now, there is something standing in its way. An 8 year old girl.
Now instead of the bull being a free animal, it is a horrible beast that wants to hurt a little girl. The placement of Fearless Girl has stolen his work of art. By his view, Charging Bull is no longer his and instead it belongs to the girl. So, what can Di Modica do? Actually he may have a rarely used law on his side.
The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 protects artists from having their works moved, destroyed or altered under specific instances. Di Modica may be able to argue a violation of his copyright under VARA if he could convince a judge that New York City modified his work or damaged its integrity in a way that harmed his reputation.
Becoming a He Man Woman Hater overnight might qualify as harm to his reputation.
On a personal note, I really hope people realize the bull was there almost 30 years before and therefore in no way should be seen as Di Modica wanting to trample little girls.
So, let’s talk ethics. For the purpose of Fearless Girl kidnapping another artist’s creation, should Fearless Girl be moved to a location where she isnt seen as facing down an “evil” work of art? Here are my rambling thoughts.
I don’t think this ethical for one work of art to take away from another work of art. Let’s play my favorite game “Jed Makes a Crazy Hypothitial”. Imagine if you will The Venus De Milo. Oh, there she is. Good imagination.
A famous statue who lost her arms in battle (insert Men In Tights joke here). Everyone knows it. Its iconic, like the bull and its meant to stand alone. See anything else around it?
Now say a new artist placed a sculpture right next to Venus of a man holding a severed arm. Either running away from her like he stole it, or holding it up to her like he’s handing it back. (I tried to find an existing sculpture like that to no avail) Would’t the new work of art be making a mockery of the Venus De Milo?
Say someone hung a paining next to the Mona Lisa of a man pointing and laughing? Or, more to the Girl/Bull example if Da Vinci hung the Mona Lisa next to an existing painting of a man looking in disgust leading people to believe the hypothetical “Man Disgusted at a Garbage Dump” is actually disgusted at the less than attractive Mona Lisa? Wouldn’t that change the view of an unrelated painting?
I think in this perspective Charging Bull’s Di Modica has a case. A good one? Maybe/Maybe not. Yes, Fearless Girl does make it appear that his bull wants to trample a little girl. (Although, seriously, what parent is letting their little girl wander around massive angry bulls?) Personally, I’d prefer people not see it as the bull wanting to hurt her, but that a girl has come upon this powerful creature and doesn’t show fear. That’s a good perspective in my opinion.
I also like what Twitter user @AKGMurray said:
They aren’t enimies, but two powerful creatures that are meeting, and after a little stare down, are going to work together. Like Iron Man and Captian America, or something, I’m not really a comic book guy.
In the end New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has stated that the Fearless Girl isnt going anywhere until at least March 2018. And, I think that’s a good thing. Fearless Girl isnt hurting anyone. She looks great, has a powerful message, and is bringing tourists back to the southern half of Manhattan. I hope I get to take a picture with the Fearless Girl someday. Art is awesome and this world needs more of it, not less.