Charging Bull v Fearless Girl: iconic New York statues at loggerheads

Agence France-Presse
The Fearless Girl statue stands facing the Charging Bull in New York City - AFP

A battle is heating up between two iconic New York statues, the legendary Charging Bull and new kid on the block Fearless Girl, with gender equality, artistic integrity and copyright issues at stake.

The Italian-American artist who created Charging Bull, which has stood south of Wall Street for nearly 30 years, alleged Wednesday that Fearless Girl breached his copyright, distorted his artistic message and should be moved elsewhere.

"It's really bad," a frail Arturo Di Modica, 76, told reporters, his voice thick with emotion and barely audible. "She's there attacking the bull," he added.

The Italian-born sculptor installed his bronze in December 1989, as a celebration of the can-do spirit in America to counter the 1987 Wall Street market crash.

Arturo Di Modica speaks at a press conference addressing legal rights over the Fearless Girl installation on Wall Street  Credit: Getty Images

But for a month it has been overshadowed, at least in part, by the bronze Fearless Girl crafted by US artist Kristen Visbal and installed in March, hands on hips and chin jutting out, directly challenging the bull.

Erected initially for a week and commissioned by a Boston-based investment company to create awareness of the need for greater gender diversity on company boards, the Girl statue became an overnight sensation.

It is now considered a defiant symbol of women's rights - considered by some under threat by president Donald Trump, the Republican property tycoon who won election in November despite the emergence of a video showing him bragging about groping women.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a vehement Trump critic, has since announced the bronze girl statue will remain in place until at least March next year.

But Mr Di Modica's lawyers say it has transformed the bull "into a negative force and a threat" and turned his career triumph into a derivative work without permission.

"Very simply we request respectfully that the Fearless Girl statue be removed," said lawyer Norman Siegel, calling for damages to be awarded for the "violation" of his client's statutory rights.

Fearless Girl, he suggested, could be relocated outside any number of New York firms with poor records on gender equality, or indeed in any other US city.

"None of us here today are in any way not proponents of gender equality but there are issues of copyright and trademark," he said.

 The Fearless Girl statue Credit: Reuters

Mr Siegel urged the New York mayor and those who commissioned the Girl to come together to find an amicable solution, warning that without talks he would face "the hard decision" of whether to litigate.

But the mayor appears ill disposed toward a compromise.

"Men who don't like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl," he tweeted on Wednesday.

The firm that commissioned the statue said it was "grateful" to those "who have responded so enthusiastically" to its message of "the power and potential of having more women in leadership."

But Di Modica's lawyers said the firm was using public property for free commercial advertising and questioned whether the city should have granted the permit.

The sculptor himself initially dropped the Charging Bull outside the New York Stock Exchange without permission. It was later granted a permit and relocated.

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