The sculptor who created the famed “Charging Bull” statue in New York City's financial district says an investment company violated his rights by installing the now widely popular “Fearless Girl” statue near his creation without permission.
Speaking at a Manhattan news conference, Arturo Di Modica said he placed the “Charging Bull” statue in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1987 as a symbol of America’s resilience following the stock market crash that year. The city later relocated the sculpture to a small public park area nearby.
"The bull represents strength," said Di Modica. "The strength of America, the strength of the market."
The iconic statue over the years has become one of the city's most popular tourist attraction. But on the eve of International Women's Day, State Street Global Advisors placed the new a statue of a little girl, hands defiantly on hips, in front of the bull.
The new sculpture virtually overnight became a representation of a lack of gender diversity and equality on Wall Street and in other U.S. workplaces. The investment firm said it commissioned the artwork as a part of its call on behalf of the more than 3,500 companies that benefit from its clients' investments to make sure their governing boards are diverse.
By March 27, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed that the “fearless girl” statue would remain on Department of Transportation property as a part of a municipal art program through February 2018.
Many hailed the announcement. But Di Modica was far from pleased. He said "Fearless Girl" was part of an advertising campaign that altered the artistic message behind "Charging Bull" without his permission. Additionally, his attorneys said the new sculpture infringed on a trademark and copyright held by Di Modica.
"What they did, it's a negative," Di Modica said of the new message conveyed by "Fearless Girl." Now, the message is "I'm here, what are you going to do," he said.
Attorneys for Di Modica said a plaque initially placed with "Fearless Girl" stated: "Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference." The "she" in the message referred to the financial trading symbol for a State Street Global Advisors exchange-traded fund.
"The statue of the young girl becomes the "Fearless Girl" only because of the Charging Bull: the work is incomplete without Mr. Di Modica's Charging Bull, ad as such it constitutes a derivative work," the attorneys wrote in a Tuesday letter to Ronald O'Hanley, president and CEO of the investment firm.
The attorneys sent similar letters to de Blasio and McCann Worldwide, which they said developed an ad campaign for "Fearless Girl." They also filed Freedom of Information Act requests with city agencies, seeking records related to the authorization, location, placement and installation of "Fearless Girl."
Di Modica's lawyers, who include Norman Siegel, a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, seek an "amicable" solution in which "Fearless Girl" is moved elsewhere and "Charging Bull's" creator is recompensed for infringement damages. However, Siegel acknowledged the controversy eventually could end up in court.
Siegel took pains to avoid criticizing "Fearless Girl" as a new symbol of women's rights and power. "None of us here today are not in any way opponents of gender rights," he said.