di Marina Carminati
The impressive “Charging Bull” sculpture is something of a tourist attraction in New York’s Wall Street neighbourhood, but when it began life it was illegal. The bull was secretly placed near the New York Stock Exchange Christmas tree one night in December 1989. The sculpture was the work of a Sicilian, Arturo Di Modica, who had decided to create it after the Wall Street Crash of 1987.
The sculpture is massive: it is 5 metres long and weighs some 3.5 tons. It cost Di Modica $360,000 to make and transport the sculpture and, once the city authorities removed it, he was forced to pay enormous fines.
The City might not have liked Di Modica’s “guerrilla art,” but New Yorkers loved it. They saw it as a charming Christmas present to the people of New York and accused the City of being “The Grinch that stole Christmas.”
A compromise was reached a few days later. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation took the statue out of storage and placed it (permanently) at Bowling Green Park, not far from Di Modica’s original location. The statue does not belong to the City, but is “on loan” from Di Modica. You are of course free to go and see it whenever you like, but you can also take a tour with Meredith Tobak (see interview. For more information on the tours, go to: www.cititrek.com).
LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)
Speaker: Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)
If you go to New York’s Wall Street district, you will find a statue of a charging bull. This was the creation of a Sicilian sculptor, Arturo Di Modica, and it was his personal tribute to the New York Stock Exchange. We asked Meredith Tobak of Cititrek tours to explain the significance of the bull and to tell us the bizarre story behind it:
It really does represent what the stock market is and what Wall Street is, and you always want to have a bullish market, and that’s why the bull is there. You don’t want to have a bearish market because that means that the market’s very, very poor. So when this Italian sculptor decided to drop this bull in front of Wall Street, December 16th, 1989, he thought he was doing a great thing for New York City. Well, Mayor Dinkins was not too happy about it because you have to understand you just can’t put anything in the middle of anything when it comes to New York without having about six different permits and eight different people getting their hands greased with money. So what happens is that they basically wanted it removed and they removed it, which is amazing ‘cause it’s like a ton, it’s a lot of weight. They had to have a flatbed truck come in from Brooklyn to even drop this off.
Actually, the Mayor of New York at the time was still Ed Koch, and not David Dinkins, and he discovered that New Yorkers actually liked the bull:
After the pressure from a lot of the residents and people that worked on Wall Street, signing petitions, they decided, the Mayor at the time, who was not very well loved, but he wanted to give New York back some sort of beautiful Christmas gift, so, December 31st, the bull comes back and it’s been a stated piece of sculpture here in New York City forever, and I don’t think it’s ever moving. And, yes, he had to pay a lot of fines but, think about it, this is something that is never going to go away, ever. Like this will be something that is like the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower, like it’s never going anywhere. So what’s great about it is that people come from all over the world to take pictures of this bull and they’ll take pictures of the front of the bull and they take pictures of the back of the bull! So, I mean, the bull just represents Wall Street because you want to have a great stock market, so it’s a bullish market.
And Meredith Tobak, who was in high school at the time, remembers the events of December 1989 vividly:
I remember being in high school, OK? And I remember the bull being a very – because it was 1989, so I was in 9th grade, I was a freshman at high school, and I remember this was plastered all over The New York Post and The Daily News, and, I mean, as a New Yorker, coming from that because, you know, when Arturo took the flatbed truck, pulled it in, you know, dropped it off and then removed it again and it was almost like laughable because, as New Yorkers, we just were like, “I can’t believe that this man is actually being so stubborn to come back and drop this bull off again!” But then that’s a New Yorker for you, so we kind of respected him and that’s why we wanted it to come back full time. And you have to understand also the City of New York fines you for sneezing, if you know!
Arturo Di Modica is Sicilian. He was born in Vittoria, near Ragusa, in 1941, but moved to Florence in his late teens in order to study at the Accademia delle Belle Arti. He then worked as a sculptor in Florence. In 1973 he left for New York, where he opened a studio in SoHo. He has made a similar “Bund Bull” in Shanghai and is currently working on an enormous equine sculpture for his native Vittoria.