As if there wasn’t already enough, New York City, NY, is dousing the country once again with a steaming pile of… well, you see where this is going.
The issue surrounds a statue on Lower Broadway of a “Fearless Girl”, crafted by artist Kristen Visbal. The problem? It was placed deliberately, squaring off against an existing statue at the same location: Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull”, which had formerly been a gift to the city after the major market crash in the 80’s, as a symbol of Americans’ resilience, strength, and prosperity.
Now that this “Fearless Girl” statue has been placed counter to it, the entire meaning of the original statue has been changed. What Di Modica had intended as a tribute to the virtues of every man and woman of the country, is now a face-off between a seemingly helpless– though clearly brave– young girl, against a behemoth– obviously male– tyrannical-seeming bull. Di Modica is not happy about the situation, and Visbal isn’t commenting.
What complicates this situation further, is that the Fearless Girl addition, is pretty badass— and it’s getting loads of international attention.
The Fearless Girl is a nice work on its own, but combined with the Charging Bull, the visualisation is masterful. I’ve gotta hand it to Visbal, it was an incredibly creative and powerful move to place the piece as she did. If this had been a Banksy graffiti tag, it would be one of his best yet. It’s an amazing symbol for feminism and the courage of women everywhere.
Unfortunately, Visbal didn’t ask for Di Modica’s permission to (essentially) alter his work, this way. That would be like Michael Bay getting hold of an original film reel of the Princess Bride, putting in a bunch of fight scenes and explosions, then mass re-releasing it that way as if it’s his movie.
What’s worse, is that (as I mentioned earlier) the bull was once a symbol to represent all Americans, and Visbal’s addition has changed the meaning to villify men and empower only women. If the entire creation had been her own art, it would certainly be her right to do that, but:
a) it’s not her art, and she didn’t gain permission
b) she has dishonoured the male populace of America at large, Di Modica, and the original piece all in one fell swoop by changing a gift for everyone into a statement for half.
It’s a very complex issue. Feminism has gotten a strong foothold, and is making some real progress for women, even if women still aren’t getting a fair share of the pie just yet– but the fact is, they aren’t, and so it’s great to have empowering voices like Visbal’s out there. The damning reality of this particular case however, is that what she’s done is little different from a common graffiti artist tagging over a public mural. Yeah, the new art may even be better than the old, but she had no right to deface a public symbol.
After all, I wonder how she’d feel if in front of her piece, someone placed a statue of agonised African-American, Native-American, Mexican, and Chinese slaves, cowering at her feet?