Sculptor wants "Fearless Girl" to back down (or at least step away)
April 13, 2017 6:14 AM   Subscribe

The sculptor of the celebrated “Charging Bull” statue in New York City’s Bowling Green has complained that the recent installation nearby of another statue, “Fearless Girl, ” violates his copyright.

Kristen Visbal envisioned the piece as a celebration of girl power, but it’s placement in the financial district facing down Arturo DiModica’s brass bull was a publicity stunt engineered by advertising agency McCann New York on behalf of investment firm State Street Global Advisors.

DiModica, who is represented by Norman Siegel, former director of the New York chapter of the ACLU, said of his bull that “the message is for freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love. It's a negative now. The girl is right in front saying, 'Now I'm here, what are you gonna do?'

Siegel's legal claim is that the placement of Visbal's work makes it clear that her piece depends on the presence of DiModica's bull to make it's point and amounts to an advertisement for SSGA that "commercialized and exploited the 'Charging Bull.'

A Village Voice piece noted that a plaque by SSGA installed with the piece praised the power of "women in leadership." However, "a quick perusal of SSGA's own leadership turns up five women out 28 top executives, making its leadership 82 percent male (and 96.5 percent white). SSGA is a division of the State Street Corporation, which includes a banking division overseeing $28 trillion dollars. Of the corporation's 11 directors, eight, or 72 percent, are men."
posted by layceepee (178 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
If we ca get our elites to use sculpted bronze as a medium for debate, it would be the Best Thing Evar.

So screw this guy.
posted by ocschwar at 6:19 AM on April 13 [36 favorites]


I don't think that's how copyright works, is it?
posted by thelonius at 6:24 AM on April 13 [13 favorites]


It should be noted that the Charging Bull was, itself, not a commissioned work. It was originally installed in dead of night by DiModica and his friends, right in front of the New York Stock Exchange. So whatever he claims the message of the original statues is? It's... kinda bull.
posted by parliboy at 6:24 AM on April 13 [113 favorites]


I don't think that's how copyright works, is it?

It depends if Fearless Girl is a separate work of art which happens to be in proximity to Charging Bull, or if Fearless Girl plus Charging Bull constitutes a single work of art. If it's the latter, then Fearless Girl plus Charging Bull could be considered a derivative work, which may be copyright infringement. Siegel's argument that Fearless Girl loses its meaning if not in the vicinity of Charging Bull makes the case that Fearless Girl plus Charging Bull is intended to be a single work.

Also possibly relevant is whether Visbal created the work with the intent of having it face down Charging Bull, or if that was an afterthought and idea of McCann New York. Although if it's the latter, it might mean that the copyright infringement still exists, but falls on McCann rather than Visbal.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:35 AM on April 13 [30 favorites]


It should be noted that the Charging Bull was, itself, not a commissioned work. It was originally installed in dead of night by DiModica and his friends, right in front of the New York Stock Exchange. So whatever he claims the message of the original statues is? It's... kinda bull.

Both those things can be true. I think DiModica has a legitimate argument, but it's an almost impossible one to make given the circumstances, and lends itself to easy misinterpretation.

From Slate's article: Before Fearless Girl came on the scene, the bull was an encouraging representation of a booming economy. Now, charging toward a tiny human, it’s a stand-in for the gendered forces that work against women’s success in the workplace. This isn’t the same kind of contextual shift that might result from a curator’s juxtaposition of two works; the girl is derivative. Di Modica meant his bull to stand alone—now, it’s as if Visbal and New York City have made a solo piece a diptych without his consent.

Imagine you make a bronze sculpture of Rosa Parks, and then someone else comes along later, puts a bronze zoo cage around it labeled 'Gorilla' and puts some bronze zoo-goers pointing and laughing.

Can you see DiModica's argument now? Someone has hijacked his work and integrated it into a reinterpretion which paints it negatively, and done so without his consent.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:36 AM on April 13 [63 favorites]


If you're gonna have something stare at the bull, why not do the thing that makes sense and make it a bear? where are all the bear statues. more bear statues IMO
posted by Greg Nog at 6:36 AM on April 13 [49 favorites]


DiModica, who is represented by Norman Siegel, former director of the New York chapter of the ACLU, said of his bull that “the message is for freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love.

That...is not how I interpreted the bull statue. I thought of it as braggy American financial asshole-ism, like "the market is going to trample you down because we are rich and don't have to care". I have nothing but extremely negative feelings about that statue.
posted by Frowner at 6:36 AM on April 13 [166 favorites]


From what I understand, he's basing his argument on European law, which gives artists stronger “moral rights” over the integrity of their works than US law does.

I wonder whether or not he's getting any kickbacks for playing the scenery-chewing villain, and making a piece of hedge-fund whitewashing into a symbol of The Woke As Fuck Resistance™.
posted by acb at 6:38 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


on the one hand I love that he more or less admitted out loud that nothing ruins the artistic effect of a good phallic symbol like the nearest girl not having the grace to look impressed or at least scared

on the other hand, it would be a better tableau if she were ignoring the bull, rather than posturing back at it.

then again, even though they are both terrible pieces, annoying other sculptors is just as important as making good art. at least I think so.

the message is for freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love. It's a negative now. The girl is right in front saying, 'Now I'm here, what are you gonna do?'


ugh is there anything worse than smug little girls blocking the world's capacity for power and love by just standing there? why do you ruin everything, little girls

of course without that artistic self-interpretation, it looks like she is about to get trampled and/or gored to death by a raging bull fairly disgustingly as soon as they both unfreeze, but whatever
posted by queenofbithynia at 6:40 AM on April 13 [67 favorites]


this is interesting.

Charging Bull is emblematic of Wall Street. The bull market. The people who take advantage of the bull market. The young stud, rampaging through your family's pension plans and retirement fund, creating winners (himself) and losers (your family).

The artist's statement is that “the message is for freedom in the world, peace, strength, power and love ... ". That may be the artist's statement. But, it's been co-opted by the studs.

Either the artist was a member of the stud culture, and so opposing his interpretation of "freedom" is fine, regardless of what he says. Or, the piece was co-opted, like Pepe, which puts him in a more complicated situation. But Pepe's creator used his creation as a voice to oppose the co-opters.

ALL that being said, artistic merits aside, I do think he made an interesting (if ultimately pointless) argument that Fearless Girl only exists in the context of Bull. In essence, the proximity of Bull gives Girl the specific meaning it has.

So I think a comparison might be if t-shirts were made with this, wherein the copyrighted picture of Bull was included with the picture of Girl. It would send a message that would be impossible without the inclusion of Bull.

This sounds a lot like parody / remix culture that has existed on t-shirts and music for so long. It is so apropos that when Wall Street gets into a familiar internet-type spat, it does so via bronze statues.
posted by rebent at 6:40 AM on April 13 [19 favorites]


Imagine being so into commodities derivatives or whatever that you install an enormous, pricy piece of guerilla art on Wall Street.
posted by turntraitor at 6:40 AM on April 13 [24 favorites]


If it's the latter, then Fearless Girl plus Charging Bull could be considered a derivative work, which may be copyright infringement.

Agreed. I'm thinking of when Toronto's Eaton Centre put Christmas bows on Michael Snow's work.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:40 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I wonder whether or not he's getting any kickbacks for playing the scenery-chewing villain, and making a piece of hedge-fund whitewashing into a symbol of The Woke As Fuck Resistance™.

The first I ever heard of this girl statue was in the context of 'check out this wack-ass attempt at corporate pseudo-feminism' from everyone on Facebook like the moment it was installed.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:43 AM on April 13 [12 favorites]


In a just world, the response statue wouldn't have been the little girl, but instead Rosa Luxemburg, on the back of the bull, slitting his throat.
posted by turntraitor at 6:46 AM on April 13 [67 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sort of pissed at this guy for making me feel sympathy for that terrible "fearless girl" statue.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:48 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


In a just world, the response statue wouldn't have been the little girl, but instead Rosa Luxemburg, on the back of the bull, slitting his throat.

Ayn Rand vs. Rosa Luxembourg, no holds barred. Two go in, only one comes out.
posted by acb at 6:50 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


Imagine you make a bronze sculpture of Rosa Parks, and then someone else comes along later, puts a bronze zoo cage around it labeled 'Gorilla' and puts some bronze zoo-goers pointing and laughing.

Can you see DiModica's argument now? Someone has hijacked his work and integrated it into a reinterpretion which paints it negatively, and done so without his consent.



No, not really. Regarding his lawyer: "Siegel says it's clear from the way the Fearless Girl is positioned that it purposefully uses the bull as a companion piece." That's all well and good, but he shouldn't pretend that he wasn't using the NYSE as a companion to his original statue installation. He used location and surroundings of his own guerilla art to aid his expression, then got a lawyer after someone else did the same thing. That there is a positive or negative connotation conveyed upon his work is not something that copyright should be used to address.

Additionally, in the scenario you described, it would be impossible to view the Rosa Parks statue without the cage; it would have transformed the art itself into a different piece of art. It is perfectly possible to take in the bull as a single piece.
posted by parliboy at 6:53 AM on April 13 [27 favorites]


I don't think the guy who dropped his sculpture into the world in a space he doesn't control gets to complain about the interpositioning or interpretation of his work
posted by benbenson at 6:54 AM on April 13 [44 favorites]


Old Man Yells For Clout
posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:56 AM on April 13 [35 favorites]


"Fearless Girl" is the physical version of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, the exploitation of genuine sentiment and passion, in this case feminism in America, by a hedge fund to advertise itself.

It's some kind of sign of the times that the Charging Bull statue, which has come to be an emblem of American capitalism, was given as an anonymous gift to the city while Fearless Girl, supposedly an emblem of female empowerment, was commissioned by a hedge fund and installed with a plaque telling you their name.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:57 AM on April 13 [68 favorites]


Maybe they can get United to drag her unconscious body from the plaza.
posted by sutt at 6:58 AM on April 13 [25 favorites]


I think we should go #thirdway and replace both with a golden calf.
posted by condour75 at 7:01 AM on April 13 [48 favorites]


That's all well and good, but he shouldn't pretend that he wasn't using the NYSE as a companion to his original statue installation.

I don't think the owners of NYSE considers themselves to be artists or the exchange to be an artwork.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:01 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Let the challenge go to Court and create caselaw at the appellate level.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:05 AM on April 13


It's some kind of sign of the times that the Charging Bull statue, which has come to be an emblem of American capitalism, was given as an anonymous gift to the city while Fearless Girl, supposedly an emblem of female empowerment, was commissioned by a hedge fund and installed with a plaque telling you their name.

I'm surprised the pussyhats haven't yet been sued or co-opted by Susan G. Komen monolith.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:05 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


leotrotsky: I don't think the owners of NYSE considers themselves to be artists or the exchange to be an artwork.

But in any other context, the bull is far less meaningful. In this case, the context is part of the art installation.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:05 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


I don't think the owners of NYSE considers themselves to be artists or the exchange to be an artwork.

Dear leo, I hope you're not suggesting that architecture does not incorporate art? I would strongly disagree.
posted by parliboy at 7:06 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I don't think the owners of NYSE considers themselves to be artists or the exchange to be an artwork.

Not the NYSE owners, but the architect would have copyright in the building...except (according to the interwebs) the building was completed in 1903, so it has long been in the public domain.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:09 AM on April 13


Sangermaine: "Fearless Girl" is the physical version of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, the exploitation of genuine sentiment and passion, in this case feminism in America, by a hedge fund to advertise itself.

Except the Pepsi commercial hinges on the Pepsi can and it's apparent value to the police officer, while the advertisement element of Fearless Girl is more of a footnote to the art piece. Yes, the fact that there's a plaque identifying the brave hedge fund that would face down the bull is bullshit, but that can be removed (and should be a stipulation for allowing the statue to remain, IMO).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:09 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


leotrotsky: I don't think the owners of NYSE considers themselves to be artists or the exchange to be an artwork.

But in any other context, the bull is far less meaningful. In this case, the context is part of the art installation.


Right, that's not the issue.

Dear leo, I hope you're not suggesting that architecture does not incorporate art? I would strongly disagree.

And neither is that.

There's no indication that NYSE thinks that they have an artwork that they believe has been co-opted by DiModica like DiModica believes his artwork has been co-opted by Visbal. The parallel isn't the same.

Like I said, he's got an argument, but it's not an easy one to make.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:10 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Rosa Luxembourg could take Ayn Rand with one hand behind her back. It's not about the ideology - she was pretty hard core and did a lot of difficult stuff, whereas Rand seems to have spent much of her adult life whining.
posted by Frowner at 7:12 AM on April 13 [34 favorites]


Legally he may have a case (though the fact that he installed his work himself without permission originally seems like it would weaken it).

In artistic terms, though, his stupid bull got one-upped, and he's pissed. The fact that even a weak-ass, corporate, white-feminist message like the girl statue was enough to make people realize how stupid his bull is makes it even funnier. It's like an object lesson in Male Fragility.

I don't really care what happens here; everyone involved has too much money and power and they can bitch at each other till kingdom come if they want.
posted by emjaybee at 7:15 AM on April 13 [70 favorites]


Freedom, strength, and power, I'll give him. But peace and love? That ain't no Ferdinand there.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:16 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


Ayn Rand vs. Rosa Luxembourg, no holds barred. Two go in, only one comes out.

Hey, Hands Off Rosa Luxemburg.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:16 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Intended as a celebration of girl power, its placement facing the charging bull has transformed "fearless girl" into "fearless girl who is about to die due to situationally inappropriate lack of fear."
posted by sfenders at 7:17 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


In artistic terms, though, his stupid bull got one-upped, and he's pissed. The fact that even a weak-ass, corporate, white-feminist message like the girl statue was enough to make people realize how stupid his bull is makes it even funnier. It's like an object lesson in Male Fragility.

Yeah, totes.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:17 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Aw, I would love to see a Ferdinand statue.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 AM on April 13 [24 favorites]


I think the whole situation could be defused by adding more art. Perhaps a Bear, a bust of Scrooge McDuck, a miniature Statue of Liberty, maybe a 3D poo emoji, and then just call it all a sculpture garden.
posted by Kabanos at 7:18 AM on April 13 [53 favorites]


So if I build a mirror-clad skyscraper next to a Gensler-designed one, can Gensler sue me for copyright infringement, because I create a derivative art - mirror image of his building, intended to stand alone (in public space)?

I'd rather say this is a frivolous gimmick by a pompous prick. I hope a US court runs him into the ground as the disingenuous, bloated braggart that he is. The arguments are just laughable and the fact that someone puts something out in public obviously precludes any copyright claims of this kind, I'd say.
posted by Laotic at 7:20 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


The ideal response would be for a third artist, ideally not employed by a multinational, to install a third sculpture mocking both of the previous sculptures for being corporate shills.

Maybe have Kendall Jenner standing next to Fearless Girl holding a Pepsi.

edit: damnit Kabanos.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:22 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]




So if I build a mirror-clad skyscraper next to a Gensler-designed one, can Gensler sue me for copyright infringement, because I create a derivative art - mirror image of his building, intended to stand alone (in public space)?

Well, yes, he can sue you, in an "anyone can sue anyone for anything" kind of way. If you mean, can he win, if he can show you intentionally built the mirror skyscraper next to his to create your own artwork by reflecting his, then possibly yes. If you just designed a generic mirror skyscraper without consideration for what it would be reflecting, and it happened to be built next to his, then probably not.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:25 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


‘Devil’s Advocate Boy’ Statue Erected On Wall Street Next To ‘Fearless Girl’

He's infringing my trademark. They can expect to hear from my attorneys (Devil's Advocate's Advocates, LLC) shortly.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:27 AM on April 13 [31 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate, if I erected a mirror building next to another one, I could claim anything I wanted.

The problem with art is anyone can fill it with any meaning whatsoever. Even the artist may lie about his original intention, but is the lie really relevant? All I'm saying is I think this is a disingenuous, frivolous claim but I really don't think it will ever be heard by a court - being a publicity stunt and all.
posted by Laotic at 7:31 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


I think he's in the right here, since the fearless girl statue is staring down his raging bull statue. It's staring down another piece of art (regardless of said piece of art's merits). It was an interesting statement when it was made, but I think it's facing the wrong target.

It should be placed facing the NYSE or other financial location. The bull statue doesn't need to be reminded that women have their own power; Wall Street itself does. The bull is a statue; it's not going to change. The financial elites are the ones who need to change.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:31 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Yes - it's not copyright that's been infringed so much as moral right.
posted by Grangousier at 7:33 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


The bull statue doesn't need to be reminded that women have their own power

Or that dudes can adopt feminine avatars to stir shit up, like a bunch of Twitter Nazis with anime-girl avatars.
posted by acb at 7:34 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


> In a just world, the response statue wouldn't have been the little girl, but instead Rosa Luxemburg, on the back of the bull, slitting his throat.

I have an idea for a dynamic sculpture speaking to the issues of our time that we can install on wall street. it's made of wood and steel rather than bronze. it features a tall upright wooden frame in which an angled blade is lifted and suspended, plus a set of stocks positioned under the blade such that someone confined within said stocks would be neatly decapitated when the blade was released.

I call it "the euthanasia of the rentier."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:38 AM on April 13 [34 favorites]


In a just world, the response statue wouldn't have been the little girl, but instead Rosa Luxemburg, on the back of the bull, slitting his throat.

There's still time.
posted by amanda at 7:38 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Rosa Luxembourg could take Ayn Rand with one hand behind her back. It's not about the ideology - she was pretty hard core and did a lot of difficult stuff, whereas Rand seems to have spent much of her adult life whining.

Except, at the end, Rand would bribe the referee to look the other way and pay some goons to murder Luxembourg and dump her body in the canal. (The money owed to the goons might never show up, but by then, that's their problem, not Rand's.)
posted by acb at 7:43 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Ugh that stupid fucking statue makes me crazy. I was a fearless girl and everyone thought that was great until I started growing up and now I'm a scared woman because apparently adult girls should know their place (NB I have gotten older and crankier and so this does not apply quite so much as when I was in my twenties). I have a baby daughter and I want her to be fearless but mostly I want her to have the opportunity to be fearless; there are real dangers for girls and women out there and I don't think people would be falling all over themselves to talk about how great this is if it were an adult woman but we've fetishized "girl power" because it's cute when girls are brave and face down bulls but when an actual adult who is our peer tries to stand up for herself that's threatening and definitely not supported. Telling girls/women to be fearless and then punishing them when they act fearlessly is reprehensible.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:44 AM on April 13 [86 favorites]


As graffiti battles go, this is a pretty good one.
posted by Artw at 7:44 AM on April 13 [12 favorites]


Someone has hijacked his work and integrated it into a reinterpretion which paints it negatively, and done so without his consent.

People keep thinking this is what U.S. copyright law is meant to address. It is not what U.S. copyright law is meant to address. He'd have a better case in the E.U. on that score.

(I find copyright law almost unique amongst legal fields in the degree to which non-lawyers mistakenly think they understand how it works. Of course, non-lawyers can't reasonably be expected to have a strong grasp on legal technicalities, any more than non-doctors know about the fine points of heart surgery or non-mechanics about car engine repair, but there are very few other areas of law where people will make such confident professions of incorrect claims.)

Now (inviting myself to be struck down for hubris), I think the U.S. case is weak; there is little to no similarity between the girl and the bull. You're allowed to create works that respond to other works and rely upon them for their meaning. It's when you copy a work in order to comment on it that copyright comes into play. All the two works have in common is that they are statues in bronze. Perhaps a claim will be made that the entire mise-en-scene is a derivative work that incorporates both, but I don't think the argument that that stretch of Wall Street is the work will actually get very far. Even if the court were inclined to entertain such a claim, there's a very powerful argument for fair use here.
posted by praemunire at 7:46 AM on April 13 [15 favorites]


Maybe his goal is not to get Fearless Girl removed (which is unlikely to happen) but to get the hedge fund that put it up to “settle out of court” with him in order for him to shut up?
posted by acb at 7:48 AM on April 13


Imagine you make a bronze sculpture of Rosa Parks, and then someone else comes along later, puts a bronze zoo cage around it labeled 'Gorilla' and puts some bronze zoo-goers pointing and laughing.

Can you see DiModica's argument now? Someone has hijacked his work and integrated it into a reinterpretion which paints it negatively, and done so without his consent.


Let's review the whole concept of "punching up" vs. "punching down."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:55 AM on April 13 [12 favorites]


If his argument is that his work stands alone and Fearless Girl alters it by proximity, then I propose that we just move his giant golden calf somewhere else. Like in front of Trump Tower or something.
posted by KathrynT at 7:59 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


The relevant part of copyright would be this I assume.

It's an integrity right for visual artists and doesn't depend on trying to make an argument that this is a "derivative work" or actual copying (in fact, integrity doesn't apply to copies.)

Whether or not throwing up a status right next to it was a "modification" in this particular case is something for lawyers, but it doesn't seem on its face ridiculous to me.
posted by mark k at 8:06 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


I'd love to see a fair use argument thrown back at the bizarro maximalist copyright claim. Parody is a frequently-respected case for fair use.

Hey, everyone else in this discussion are throwing around their water cooler opinions about intellectual property law, why not me?
posted by Nelson at 8:06 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Yeah in my understanding of copyright law, Galaxy Quest is ok because while it's culturally derivative (and that's the whole point), it's not in particulars derivative -- no warp nacelles, no Klingons, no Prime Directive. Whereas "Star Trek: Axanar" got into trouble for being derivative in its particulars, including using the Star Trek name.

And I don't want to live in a jurisdiction where McDonald's can control what Banksy does with its image. (Slightly misaligned analogy because that is a case of being derivative in particulars, but covered by satire, precisely because our laws recognize the value of "commentary upon" in art.) Putting one statue next to another to comment on it is fully within the traditions of both law and art.
posted by traveler_ at 8:08 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Hmm. I would say the bull has long outstayed its 'temporary' permit, and considering that the artist is super litigious, and well, a terrible person, I say NYC should take the stand (however ingenious on the part of the firm that installed 'standing girl') that women's rights are important and just remove the bull altogether.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:09 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


I think both statues would look much better festooned with the entrails of Scott F. Powers and the rest of the SSgA.

And the bull should be painted blue, because all large bulls should be painted blue.

And it might as well have a prominent wang like the horse out by DIA that freaks out the Alex Jones types.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:10 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I say remove the girl and put up a middle finger
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:11 AM on April 13


DiModica's Bull was not a commissioned piece: it was, as the artist himself has admitted, installed illegally. It was not requested or paid for by NYC, and he is damn lucky that when the city moved it, they found it a new and prominent position --- they could have melted the thing down for scrap, but no: it was merely moved.

So if it's okay for him to illegally install his art wherever he wants, without regard to other art or architecture already in place, then it is also okay for other people to install their art wherever they want, without regard for the placement of his art. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and all that.

If he disagrees, he is welcome to take his Bull and put it on his own property.
posted by easily confused at 8:11 AM on April 13 [20 favorites]


I used to take classes right across the street from the bull, and I think it's really important that everyone here know that tons of people line up every day to have their picture taken with the bull's ass.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:13 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


The bull's balls. There are even shiny patches on them from where so many people have rubbed them.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:15 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Maybe his goal is not to get Fearless Girl removed (which is unlikely to happen) but to get the hedge fund that put it up to “settle out of court” with him in order for him to shut up?

I now want to dump a reclining nude sculpture on the steps of a Manhattan courthouse and call it "Settling out of court".
posted by Kabanos at 8:30 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


When you plop your bull sculpture down on public land in the dead of night and it becomes a sort of kitschy cultural phenonium, you count yourself lucky. And when, thirty years later, your bull sculpture gets appropriated and turned into something new -- something you didn't anticipate or intend -- you understand that's how art works; that the artist's intention for his work and the meaning that that work takes on are often different.

What you don't do is make legal threats based on unstainable causes of action.
posted by thursdaystoo at 8:32 AM on April 13 [14 favorites]


The bull's balls.

related previously
posted by edeezy at 8:34 AM on April 13


It's amazing how many comments here boil down to "but I *like* the girl statue and I *don't* like the bull statue, so therefore I think this guy is wrong." Come on folks.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:36 AM on April 13 [21 favorites]


I like the girl statute and don't especially like the bull statute. But that's not at all why I think this guy's wrong.
posted by thursdaystoo at 8:38 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I know. Some people are actually engaging this guy's argument. Lots of people aren't.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:39 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


A New York friend told me years ago that the usual artistic interaction with the bull statue was the periodic dumping of bullshit, usually real, under its tail.
posted by njohnson23 at 8:43 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


The bull's balls. There are even shiny patches on them from where so many people have rubbed them.

Disappointing that it doesn't seem as though anyone has tried taking an angle grinder to its balls.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:45 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


How about a whole array of different fearless people, standing facing the same direction, somehow implicitly supporting each other.

I will help whoever wants to start that project.
posted by amtho at 8:47 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


I think the whole situation could be defused by adding more art. Perhaps a Bear, a bust of Scrooge McDuck, a miniature Statue of Liberty, maybe a 3D poo emoji, and then just call it all a sculpture garden.

I'm rooting for Richard Serra to build a wall between them.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:48 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Not everyone's discussing the legal case. People can have opinions about the merit of the artwork, and share them as part of a discussion about the situation, without thinking they're legally relevant.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:48 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


A ridiculous legal dustup over public art, you say?

Szyrk V. Village of Tatamount Et Al.
posted by chavenet at 8:49 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I know. Some people are actually engaging this guy's argument. Lots of people aren't.

I'm not enough of a lawyer to opine confidently on the copyright aspects—tho I am skeptical of his chances—and only just enough of an art critic to think his argument is nonsense on philosophical grounds. So, yeah, I'm just here for the bullshit.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:52 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


He'd have a better case in the E.U. on that score.

Pretty sure he'd have a case in Canadian law as well.

I feel like this is the kind of thing where people should be able to separate broader precedent from a specific example. Yes the bull statue is gross, but in countries where there are laws allowing this kind of complaint, they're meant to protect artists. Protecting artists generally is more important than sticking it to this one Ugly Capitalism Statue Guy specifically. I'm guessing the people mocking Ugly Capitalism Statute Guy mostly want the kind of economy that would rely on the kinds of legal protections he's trying to invoke here, and sticking it to him personally isn't going to help bring it about.

And if your response is "Yeah but I don't like his politics, so fuck his art" well... just think that one through for a hot sec.
posted by Mike Smith at 8:52 AM on April 13 [6 favorites]


I still can't get over the capitalism aspects of this.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:55 AM on April 13


> It's amazing how many comments here boil down to "but I *like* the girl statue and I *don't* like the bull statue, so therefore I think this guy is wrong." Come on folks.

Honestly, the temperature of the room seems less "I like the girl statue but not the bull statue" and more "the bull statue is self-aggrandizing nonsense and the girl statue is so politically naïve that it's not much better than the bull."

I'm going to push back on your "come on folks," though. The actual content of political messages in public actually matters. We don't have to approach works like "bull", or "fearless girl", or "rosa luxemburg slits the throats of the capitalist exploiters" in terms of whether they are types of speech that are formally acceptable under the current regimes of property law and intellectual property law. We can instead support the works that have the political effect we want, and relentlessly fuck with the ones that glorify or excuse the capitalist class — without regard for the legality or illegality of the works in question.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:56 AM on April 13 [20 favorites]


I think his argument is ridiculous on face value, that he's protesting in bad faith, and his motivation is to make the publicity stunt more effective. I think engaging with his argument amounts to arguing with trolls. If he gets attention, State Street wins. That's all I've got to say on that: don't feed the marketing troll.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:58 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


Whether or not throwing up a status right next to it was a "modification" in this particular case is something for lawyers, but it doesn't seem on its face ridiculous to me.

(a) Physical work completely unaltered. Appearance of physical work completely unaltered. Placement is explicitly excluded by act from definition of modification (unless grossly negligent), meaning that the physical context of the sculpture is not protected: No VARA modification (most likely);

(b) Even if it were, it would be difficult to argue that the modification affected the artist's "honor or reputation," so, at best, VARA would confer upon the sculptor the right to disclaim the work (this is probably not a work of "recognized stature," although there's not a lot of law on this);

(c) Even if the sculptor prevailed to this point, VARA is subject to the same fair use restrictions as other aspects of copyright law. I don't think there's been a lot of fair use cases in the context of VARA, but the argument for fair use remains powerful.

I don't like the bull or the girl, but this claim is a stunt.

The folk belief in the U.S. that copyright maximalism is good because it's in the interest of creators cannot die fast enough.
posted by praemunire at 9:01 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


I mean, on theoretical grounds, if the bull is a site-specific installation that draws its meaning from its surroundings, then the artist must either admit that the meaning of the bull exists in a permanent state of instability, or else concede that any and every change to the surrounding environment threatens the "original" work and face the fact that he's just going to have to sue everyone.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:09 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Disappointing that it doesn't seem as though anyone has tried taking an angle grinder to its balls.

Not at all. That's destruction of property VS 'changing the art's message' by dumping actual bullshit behind the bull or being part of a line behind the bull for a picture.

being trolled

Hence the answer - File a suit and let it go to the appellate court or GTFO. Call his bluff.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:10 AM on April 13


Protecting artists generally is more important than sticking it to this one Ugly Capitalism Statue Guy specifically.

These kinds of statements in this context baffle me. The entire history of art depends on other artists responding to, reworking, criticizing, even insulting people's works of art. I genuinely do not understand how any college-educated person could be unaware of this. Even a decent high school literature or art class will get this point across. Claiming the right to be "protected" from other people's doing things to comment on your work is claiming the right to shut down both art and art criticism.

To put it more simply, if the bull is a work of art (by most definitions, it would be), then so is the girl. Why does the creator of the bull deserve such "protection" as to prevent another artist from erecting a work that comments on it several feet away? Because he was there first? (He wasn't even there first, actually.) How big a no-fly zone does he get? How much is an art critic allowed to attribute meanings to the work that the artist doesn't approve of? (A critic writing that the work "is a brutal criticism of the monstrosity and vicious animal nature of American capitalism" is doing the same kind of reframing of the work as the girl statue is.) How does it contribute to the welfare of mankind or to the welfare of artists generally to shut down commentary on art?
posted by praemunire at 9:13 AM on April 13 [18 favorites]


The actual content of political messages in public actually matters.

In terms of art and the greater culture, sure. Legally, it absolutely does not and should not, and those who want to critique the status quo should understand that more than anyone. It's always weird to me how many on MeFi seem to want protections to apply only to people or things they like and agree with, and cheer for or demand them being stripped from those they don't.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:17 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


The appearance of the girl gives the whole thing a nice ancient Cretan overtone.

All the more appropriate in my opinion since the bull cult in ancient Crete arguably centered around the power of the divine Feminine to overmaster and channel rampaging masculinity, which in its largest possible sense is our most important cultural project right about now.
posted by jamjam at 9:23 AM on April 13 [9 favorites]


The little girl is the economist's granddaughter , she is there to renegotiate the terms of her inheritance .
posted by hortense at 9:24 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


These kinds of statements in this context baffle me. The entire history of art depends on other artists responding to, reworking, criticizing, even insulting people's works of art. I genuinely do not understand how any college-educated person could be unaware of this. Even a decent high school literature or art class will get this point across. Claiming the right to be "protected" from other people's doing things to comment on your work is claiming the right to shut down both art and art criticism.

I'm not sure which side I come down on, and I think this argument has some salient points in refuting DiModica's claims. But it also seems to me that "Fearless Girl" isn't a response to "Charging Bull," but a response to Wall Street. As some have mentioned, if this piece were meant to represent a child's response to a literal rampaging animal, it's more lunatic than girl power.

On the other hand, you could say that DiMarco did intend to have the bull represent Wall Street, and represent Wall Street specifically as emblematic of American freedom, so that Visbal's statue is a response to DiMarco's work, saying, "No, Wall Street is not about freedom; it's about preserving an oppressive status quo, specifically in regard to gender equality."

But the use of the two pieces together as an advertisement for a particular Wall Street firm seems to tug against that interpretation, leading to my ambiguity about the whole situation. Should a corporation be allowed to effectively appropriate an artist's original expression for use in an ad campaign?

I have to admit that Siegel's involvement probably has me lending more credence to DiMarco that I might have otherwise, as I have great respect for cases I have seen him take on previously.
posted by layceepee at 9:28 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


I want there to be a statue of a Wall Street trader, but he's dressed as a matador--because that's how traders think of themselves, as highly skilled daredevils facing down death--and then the bull and the trader-matador come to life and the bull gores the ever-loving crap out of the trader, turning him into an abstraction on a canvas of asphalt, while from inside the NYSE come the horrified screams of an army of Trump- and Ayn Rand-loving sociopaths.

That's what I'd do, anyway.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:33 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


How big a no-fly zone does he get?

This actually seems like a perfectly cromulent question for lawyers to fight over.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:39 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


The entire history of art depends on other artists responding to, reworking, criticizing, even insulting people's works of art. I genuinely do not understand how any college-educated person could be unaware of this.

Strong tendency to confuse art-making with branding/symbol-making and a strong tendency to confuse the work of art with the logo or the word. And a strong resistance to the notion that artworks (and especially modern artworks) are ambiguous by their nature, and the "meaning," if any, slippery.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:39 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


The actual content of political messages in public actually matters.

Not an ars gratia artis sort of person, I take it. I deduct points for any art that is overtly political or agenda-ish.* But that's just me.

When the guerilla art bull first appeared, I took it as a bit of subversive satire. I understand this is not so? The girl might have worked as satire, but it can't do so long as you think of it in political terms, or have a sense of humor the depends on politics.

Of course, a little satire goes a long way and as a steady diet is unhealthy for the soul.

Putting aside politics - the two artistic styles don't really mesh well, the bull all smooth modern lines, the girl a sort of flouncy, even frilly, Norman Rockwell in 3D. They don't belong together, rather like the IMPei pyramid does not sit well inside the work of Claude Perrault et al. The cheesy quality of the girl statue makes me hope she really does go away by the end of the year.

I don't like the bull or the girl,

Sounds about right. Neither one is sublime.

(Then there's the fact of a really gruesome scene five seconds after this snapshot should the bull and she go from bronze to real life. Give her a cape and a sword, and it still won't be pretty.)

*I do find some quiet dignity in the garment worker uptown.

artworks (and especially modern artworks) are ambiguous by their nature, and the "meaning," if any, slippery.

In this case - not so much.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:43 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


I defend the Fearless Girl on First Amendment grounds. Di Modica gets to display his bull in a public space to express a viewpoint, so Kristan Visbal gets to display her response. 1A overrules the hell out of ©, far as I'm concerned. Otherwise, someone holding a "Dump Trump" sign in front of Trump Tower could theoretically be sued for copyright violation.
posted by tommyD at 9:54 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


> In terms of art and the greater culture, sure. Legally, it absolutely does not and should not, and those who want to critique the status quo should understand that more than anyone. It's always weird to me how many on MeFi seem to want protections to apply only to people or things they like and agree with, and cheer for or demand them being stripped from those they don't.

This is a really important point — I think in the end our views are incommensurable, but talking through the contours of their incommensurability is important.

As I understand it, you're speaking through a frame where correct political action means establishing a framework where things like expression, rights to use property, rights to expropriate property, and so forth are established by written rules that treat everyone before them as formally equal; a property holder has rights that a non-property-holder doesn't, but this is alright because if the non-property-holder were to gain property, she would have the same rights over her property as the original property holder has over their property.

Under this frame, defending that formal equality is the sine qua non of justice. In this frame, the question of the content of expression is one that generally shouldn't be considered, because it inevitably leads to breaking that formal equality to instead privilege particular political stances over others — in your terms, establishing "protections [that] apply only to people or things they like or agree with."

My argument is driven by the sense that formal equality before the law is in practice a dead letter; under conditions where real, sharp inequality exists — and moreover is in fact necessary for the maintenance of the political-economic situation that underpins the legal promise of formal equality — formal equality before the law only guarantees that (as some french guy put it) rich and poor alike are equally forbidden from sleeping under bridges.

(in practice it doesn't even guarantee that, since it's way easier for a rich person to talk, lawyer, or donate their way out of convictions, but never mind that)

Given that we can't rely on formal equality before the law to reduce injustice (and I think the crux of our incommensurable stances is disagreement about whether that is "given"), uh given that, we have to appeal to actual material conditions and to the idea that we can declare some political stances good, others bad, and must engage in agonistic struggle to write our ideas of good and bad into the material of the world.

This is not a stance I've come to lightly — teenaged me was very much in favor of the common-sense attitudes toward the law that you support. I would like to have your stance, but I can no longer justify it to myself — it seems to lead naturally to oppressive political situations wherein we're stuck pretending formal equality before the law matters while the rich are busy eating us alive by exploiting their material advantages. I'm not fully comfortable with my current stance, since it requires admitting that (to put it loosely) might is a necessary but not sufficient condition for right, and that the use of force without legal foundations is sometimes necessary for the establishment of justice. But it appears necessary given the conditions of the world we're stuck living in.

(which is to say: to hell with legality. Cut off the bull's balls, put an executioner's hood over the girl's head, and set up a guillotine next to her.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:57 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


Let's review the whole concept of "punching up" vs. "punching down."

Charging Bull = apparently paid for out of the artist's own pocket, and installed surreptitiously, but it was popular so allowed to stay (after being moved), and has come to symbolize rampant capitalism (either positively or negatively, depending on the viewer)

Fearless Girl = commissioned and installed by the world's third-largest asset manager, but symbolizes strong women standing against a male-dominated industry

I don't think the punching up/down moral calculus is clear-cut here.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:01 AM on April 13 [14 favorites]


When it comes to artwork that modifies the original Charging Bull, I always liked this particular example from October 2008.
posted by hippybear at 10:06 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Jesus, everyone's a scumbag.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:18 AM on April 13


> Not an ars gratia artis sort of person, I take it. I deduct points for any art that is overtly political or agenda-ish.* But that's just me.

Hah! Note, though, that Oscar Wilde was both a big "l'art pour l'art" guy and also an effective socialist propagandist. I too deduct points for art that seems agenda-ish — mainly because launching propaganda effectively often entails carefully concealing it within aesthetics.

(see: Walter Benjamin, "Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," especially the bit at the end where he talks about how fascism renders politics aesthetic, and argues that we should instead politicize aesthetics.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:18 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


where correct political action means establishing a framework where things like expression, rights to use property, rights to expropriate property, and so forth are established by written rules that treat everyone before them as formally equal

These are, I think, very commendable, if not sole political and legal values. But it isn't clear to me if even Marty Sheinbaum—to whom such things as intellectual property, droit moral, fair use, royalty structure, meant a great deal—would find for DiModica here. Having read the Gothamist piece, the only thing it says is that DiModica believes that his copyright has been violated. His copyright on what? His bull? The environment? Wall Street?
posted by octobersurprise at 10:31 AM on April 13


leotrotsky Can you see DiModica's argument now? Someone has hijacked his work and integrated it into a reinterpretion which paints it negatively, and done so without his consent.

I just wanted to say thank you. I still think DiModica is in the wrong here, but yours was the first explanation that gave me any insight into his POV or sympathy for it at all.

What I mostly hate is that I'm in the position of defending Fearless Girl, which as a feminist I'm not at all happy with.
posted by sotonohito at 10:42 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


In a small town in southeastern China (and perhaps more), there is a very similar sculpture out front of the only McDonald's. I liked it because I noticed a long time ago that post-agrarian Americans are shy about depiction of the processed livestock they consume. Cartoons are okay, but naturalistic forms are avoided.

But its appropriateness to Chinese sensibilities about diet (less along in its urbanization) that range from innocent to noxious (e.g., endangered species) intrigued me.

I rarely see civic sculpture I don't like and appreciate.There's so little of it, actually.

Much of this thread is beneath my expectation, except Ms. Pterodactyl's post, and may its veracity inspire a third installment. The Rosa Parks analogy is especially poor.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 11:05 AM on April 13


Strong tendency to confuse art-making with branding/symbol-making

I would characterize it rather as at least a medium-strength awareness of art history. You can hardly walk ten feet in, say, the Metropolitan Museum of Art without coming across an artwork that was created to aggrandize some authority figure or otherwise symbolize the desirability or positive effects of his or her power. From the seated statue of Amenemhat II that greets you when you walk in, to the Renaissance portrait medals in the Lehman collection, to Velazquez's Portrait of Philip IV, to any of the many images of Caesar Augustus, the distinction is untenable.

and a strong tendency to confuse the work of art with the logo or the word.

Again, I'd say (a) sufficient sophistication to recognize that the lines are not always clear, particularly in contemporary art but (b) more importantly, the basic legal knowledge to recognize that, in U.S. copyright, for the most part, text and art do not receive conceptually different treatment (VARA being a limited exception), and so any policy argument one wishes to make against being able to do something in the visual arts you had better be prepared to see applied to text.
posted by praemunire at 11:07 AM on April 13 [3 favorites]


That's destruction of property VS 'changing the art's message' by dumping actual bullshit behind the bull or being part of a line behind the bull for a picture.

What can I say, I'm an iconoclast.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:11 AM on April 13


This actually seems like a perfectly cromulent question for lawyers to fight over.

Only if you think there's some underlying good reason that making a sculpture should confer magical powers on you to control the space around it, which otherwise you have no claim on.

I mean, come on, guys, there is no principled distinction between this situation and if Donald Trump rented space to put a big sculpture of himself as Most Amazing Guy Ever (with yooooge hands!) in the same location and someone else put up a statue on the land they controlled two feet away giving that statue the finger. We don't have veto power on how other people react to our work, generally speaking, and God forbid we should.
posted by praemunire at 11:13 AM on April 13 [11 favorites]


I think the whole situation could be defused by adding more art. Perhaps a Bear, a bust of Scrooge McDuck,

Maybe a top hat, a shoe, and a Scotty dog. Everyone always wants the dog.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:19 AM on April 13 [8 favorites]


Much of this thread is beneath my expectation

You should ask for your money back.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:22 AM on April 13 [4 favorites]


the use of the two pieces together as an advertisement for a particular Wall Street firm

Sorry, just one more point: if State Street were to, say, take a picture of the bull and girl together and use it as an advertisement for the firm, DiMarco would indeed have a respectable copyright claim: the picture would reproduce the bull and thus infringe on his rights. There would probably still be fair use issues, but they would be less likely to be successful for a corporate advertisement.

But when you say "use" here, you mean "evoke" or "refer to," and, absent copying to achieve this effect (which is, obviously, where most of the case law here comes from), copyright law does not generally take any interest in such matters. There is no prohibition in copyright law against "using" another's work short of, in some sense, copying it. Lawyers will always argue the marginal cases, but there's an important set of considerations here, i.e., the implications of such a ban for our continuing to have art at all.
posted by praemunire at 11:23 AM on April 13 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that the Hammering Man who had a ball and chain added hasn't been brought up.

I was super-sad that the original artist didn't go along with this, and that this addition to the statue wasn't left there permanently. I liked it a lot more with a ball and chain.

I love story of the little girl and the bull a lot. Specifically because when I first read the headlines my initial sympathies were towards the little girl statue, and the more I read about it the more my sympathies shifted.

Yeah, I love the new piece of artwork, more than the original. And I love the statement that it makes. But upon realizing that it is merely corporate PR work, the impact of the art faded away.

In my mind the addition does transform the original. Sure, in a way I appreciate (although the appreciation melts away upon realizing that it is corporate PR work), but it is a transformation of the original.

The fact that the new art is a few feet away and doesn't touch the old art doesn't change the tranformative nature of the installation. An analogy (that is better than the awesome ball and chain) is what if you put a large slab of melted iron pieces that are painted orange a few feet away from a Calder sculpture. Well, Calder would have certainly not approved (and probably would sue over such a move).

I'm all in favor of mash-up culture, and even derivative works of art, and certainly parody, and think that copyright law should allow all these things. On the other hand I'm very sympathetic to an artist that has his *original* piece transformed into a derivative artwork. That is more akin to drawing on a piece on a museum - really not cool.
posted by el io at 11:34 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


You know what? If you're an artist, and you install a public piece, your control over what the audience does with it/thinks about it ends as soon as you walk away from driving in the last bolt.

And if your skin isn't thick enough to take the variety of interpretation it will inevitably receive, then you aren't an artist at all. You're just a fucking needy ass ego that never grew up.

I can't favorite this enough:

It's like an object lesson in Male Fragility.
posted by yoga at 11:43 AM on April 13 [7 favorites]


Sorry, just one more point: if State Street were to, say, take a picture of the bull and girl together and use it as an advertisement for the firm, DiMarco would indeed have a respectable copyright claim: the picture would reproduce the bull and thus infringe on his rights.

praemunier, did you have a chance to check out the link on "publicity stunt" that goes to a story in Adweek? It includes the video created by McCann for SSSGA. There are scenes of the "Fearless Girl" being designed and crafted, with on-screen text that reads "This International Women's Day, we created a symbol of female leadership for today and tomorrow. And put her somewhere no one could ignore."

It ends with a shot of the statue in situ, first from the front, zooming in on the girl's face, then revolving around and pulling back to include the image of the bull in the shot, first out of focus and then and the last instant, in focus.

Fade to black, then to #SHEMAKESA DIFFERENCE, then to a screen that shows the firm name and "Creators of the SSGA Gender Diversity Index and SHE"

Do you think that gives DiMarco a respectable copyright claim? Or do you see the ad as just evoking or referring to Charging Bull?
posted by layceepee at 11:55 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


As some have mentioned, if this piece were meant to represent a child's response to a literal rampaging animal, it's more lunatic than girl power.

if it's meant to represent a child's response to a rampaging stock market, it's much the same. what is the message -- I, being a little girl, am sublimely unafraid of economic disaster and the unchecked hubris of the men on Wall Street, because since I am a minor, other people are responsible for feeding and housing me and I don't even have a 401(k) to worry about yet?

but as many others have said, when it is this easy to rile up an entitled old blowhard who loves sculpting bulls and their balls for some dumb reason, you have a moral obligation to do it. I think a better artwork would almost have distracted from the purity of the message. when I was a surly teen, I thought banal pseudo-feminist girl-power nonsense did no good for anybody but now I see I was much mistaken.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:58 AM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Oh, I just came up with a solution that would address the artists concerns, and piss everyone involved off...

Remove the statue. Of the Bull. (Put in a park far away from Wall Street).
posted by el io at 12:33 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


In a small town in southeastern China (and perhaps more), there is a very similar sculpture out front of the only McDonald's. I liked it because I noticed a long time ago that post-agrarian Americans are shy about depiction of the processed livestock they consume. Cartoons are okay, but naturalistic forms are avoided.

Realistic cow statues standing atop steakhouses used to be a pretty common sight here, although admittedly I haven't seen one in awhile.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:11 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


I'm a bit surprised that the Vietnam War memorials haven't been mentioned, because they seem relevant.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:22 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Why? Curious at what you mean.
posted by agregoli at 1:46 PM on April 13


Do you think that gives DiMarco a respectable copyright claim? Or do you see the ad as just evoking or referring to Charging Bull?

I haven't seen the video and can't look at it right now; it depends on the details.

However, the sculptor has not, as far as I know, complained about the video; he wants the girl sculpture gone.

Monument to Male Fragility indeed. It's at moments like these that you see why so many men try so hard to cling to their structural advantages; down deep, they know that millennia of privilege have left them weak and soft and pathetic and unable to compete without those advantages. Scared of a frou-frou little girl! What a snowflake!
posted by praemunire at 1:46 PM on April 13 [5 favorites]


Regarding China: Di Modica has made a similar bull for the Bund, but now says that since Chinese knock-offs and trinkets of the bull abound, he's reluctantly going to have to go into merchandising himself.

For instinctive fans of Fearless Girl, here's a different perspective on her.

Watch how people interact with both here.

Public art vs artful publicity; though both artworks involved seem mediocre to me (at best), it's a nice conflagration of issues.
posted by progosk at 1:51 PM on April 13


For instinctive fans of Fearless Girl, here's a different perspective on her.

I'm not instinctively a fan of either, I should say. Offhand, neither seem any worse (or better) than your average public sculpture. It just seems like—based on what little I've read here so far—that Di Modica's case for compensation is legally nugatory and conceptually muddled.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:00 PM on April 13 [3 favorites]


Imagine you make a bronze sculpture of Rosa Parks, and then someone else comes along later, puts a bronze zoo cage around it labeled 'Gorilla' and puts some bronze zoo-goers pointing and laughing.

And because I love you I can say this: no rich bronze bull statue has ever gotten anywhere with me comparing himself to Rosa Parks. Got it?

posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:11 PM on April 13 [6 favorites]


Modica's Hawk with Woman (from this review of his work) makes for an interesting narrative counterpoint to Visbal's girl...

(For more on Arturo's bull, here's "Lucky Balls".)
posted by progosk at 2:27 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


This is only about money. The Raging Bull sculpture has been replicated all over, making DiModica rich. Now, the piece, which should be considered an unsolicited donated work of art, and so capable of being moved or even sold without benefit to him. By adding Fearless Girl, which he holds no copyright for, the value of this work could increase in his eyes only if he stood to profit. But he must know that he has no say in the use/abuse of an unsolicited donation. The question is whether Fearless Girl is a donation under license, meaning that it is already enshrined to place. The artist may have also signed away her right to reproduce the piece to State Street. That would be good to know.
posted by parmanparman at 2:28 PM on April 13


The Raging Bull sculpture has been replicated all over, making DiModica rich. Now, the piece, which should be considered an unsolicited donated work of art [...] he has no say in the use/abuse of an unsolicited donation.

It's Charging Bull, and it's not a donation, he's retained ownership.

The question is whether Fearless Girl is a donation under license

Erm, it's not: it was a private commission by State Street, and is being invited to remain via the Department of Transport's "Arterventions" program.
posted by progosk at 3:08 PM on April 13


I think this is a really interesting conflict and while I have no strong feeling the legal system would sort it out completely satisfactorily, or even a really clear feeling over what a satisfactory outcome might be, I think the circumstances are such that the questions raised are worth considering on more than a gut level reaction to either piece themselves.

DiModica's claim is, as far as I understand it, that the piece Fearless Girl only makes sense in conjunction with his Charging Bull, that is to say that Fearless Girl relies on Charging Bull in a way that incorporates it into its larger structure. Charging Bull can, in this current placement, be seen as a work in its own right, but as being of a piece with Fearless Girl against DiModica's wishes.

A crude equivalent might be in an artist attaching a film of their own construction to an already existing film that dramatically altered the meaning of the already existent movie, but where the additional footage would make little sense without being directly attached as a whole work. This, in that view, would be something separate from just commenting or responding to a work in a unattached piece as it requires the original to be understood.

The counter claim of course is that Fearless Girl is a separate work and commenting on another artist's work is a legitimate function of art.

Unlike the film example, the question here revolves around the space required to view a sculpture, whether or not Fearless Girl subsumes Charging Bull into being a part of its space or not then becomes a meaningful question. Does Fearless Girl have a distinct artistic meaning apart from Charging Bull? Or does it require Charging Bull for its purpose and thus deny Charging Bull its own identity apart from Fearless Girl?

I assume, as is so often the case with art trials it seems, questions of ownership of the statues and valuation may come into play as well as more abstract questions of intent, copyright and control of artworks and their spaces. If it does go that far, it'll be interesting to hear the arguments and see how it all plays out. I don't really feel much need to have a strong opinion on the right and wrong of this or favor either artist because it does seem to me to be raising issues that could have perhaps some broader effects on other artists and their works in as yet unclear ways.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:09 PM on April 13 [2 favorites]


Why? Curious at what you mean.

The statue of the soldiers was added in part because of groups affronted by the wall. It exists to some extent in relation to, but also apart from, the wall - much in the same way that the girl exists in relation to, but (ostensibly) apart from the bull.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:35 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Then there's the fact of a really gruesome scene five seconds after this snapshot should the bull and she go from bronze to real life.

I'm going to assume she's like Pippi Longstocking, and 10 seconds later a very surprised bull is going to find himself being carried back to her house.
posted by happyroach at 3:41 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


This is fascinating to me on so many different levels, most of which have been discussed at length already.

Fearless Girl brings to mind the concept of Fake-lore - stuff that passes as folklore but had a less-than-grass-roots origin. Paul Bunyan is the classic example of this - he started out as a mascot for a lumber company. Saying he's a folk hero is akin to saying Ronald McDonald is a folk hero. On the other hand, Bunyan has kind of transcended his mascot origins and turned into a symbol of, uh, I guess deforestation?

Fearless Girl has, as we've discussed, a similar origin but to many people who don't know that origin, she's already taken on a bigger symbolic meaning. When the hedge fund group that sponsored her inevitably folds/destroyed in the revolution/arrested for being a hedge fund group under President Warren etc, the statue could conceivably still be around and thoroughly divorced from its corporate shill origins.

But, on the other hand, just because something has corporate backing doesn't mean its not an effective piece of art in its own right. If we roll with the idea that we should judge a piece of art separate from its creator or its origin, the symbolic use of the statue (girl stands up to symbol of corporate greed) is pretty fascinating and worth discussing. I recognize this means we are accepting that the bull is a symbol of Wall Street's strength and this is not the artist's intent. However, once you release a work of art into the wild, it turns into whatever the viewers want to turn it into. Artistic intent ceases to matter, especially when the viewers are entirely unaware of the existence of the artist or the history of the piece or pretty much everything.

I'm doing freshman art theory rambling. I'm excited that discussion about visual art is in the news - and not just because somebody spent an ungodly amount of money for a statue of a dude jump-roping with his own semen or because that dude made another sculpture of Kim Kardashian giving birth.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:46 PM on April 13 [6 favorites]


Huh, today I learned something new about Paul Bunyan.
posted by PussKillian at 4:05 PM on April 13 [6 favorites]


Honestly, I would really like for representations of female power to be about powerful, adult women, not about cute li'l girls. It's easy for a lot of people to get behind a spunky little girl, so sweet and adorable and unthreatening, while they hate on any woman who seems genuinely powerful.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:07 PM on April 13 [21 favorites]


Fearless Girl brings to mind the concept of Fake-lore - stuff that passes as folklore but had a less-than-grass-roots origin. Paul Bunyan is the classic example of this - he started out as a mascot for a lumber company. Saying he's a folk hero is akin to saying Ronald McDonald is a folk hero.

See also: pizza rat
posted by Going To Maine at 4:09 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Seriously. I can't even imagine the commentary on this piece if it was a statue of a woman instead of a girl.
posted by agregoli at 4:12 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


Depends whether by “woman” you mean twentysomething, a bit punky and bad-ass and slightly threatening and yet kinda hot, or middle-aged or older, not particularly “fun” and threatening more in the way of a legal subpoena than piercings and tattoos.
posted by acb at 5:17 PM on April 13 [8 favorites]


Although, after doing some reading on the applicable (I think) legal standing (IANAL, and, really, you don't want me anywhere NEAR anything legally related), given my generally loose belief in IP law and love of mashup culture, I am inking this one down as a mashup (even if it is tragically corporate marketing), although I do think the merits of this case will depending on the lawyers and the judge.

(And a woman would be cool, although not arousing the same basic protective instincts a little girl does.)
posted by Samizdata at 7:29 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


True, Samizdata, altho plenty of people want to dictate an adult woman's control over her own body, so I'm ready to imagine anything.
posted by agregoli at 8:23 PM on April 13


The inevitable copyright exam fact patterns and IP moot problems based on this case are going to be really, really fun. I'm so sad I will be finished law school by the time they come to fruition.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:45 PM on April 13


KathrynT: "If his argument is that his work stands alone and Fearless Girl alters it by proximity, then I propose that we just move his giant golden calf somewhere else. Like in front of Trump Tower or something."

He still owns the statue; NYC should just revoke his "temporary" display permit and let him move it somewhere else. Problem Solved! I call this the "take the troublemaker out back and shoot him" approach to conflict resolution. Not much justice with this approach but a lot less conflict. While a popular attraction it's not like anyone would skip a trip to NYC if they couldn't see the bull.

octobersurprise: ", if the bull is a site-specific installation that draws its meaning from its surroundings, then the artist must either admit that the meaning of the bull exists in a permanent state of instability,"

The bull isn't even located at it's original installation site making any claim of it drawing meaning from its location false on its face.
posted by Mitheral at 9:56 PM on April 13 [7 favorites]


I stand corrected: turns out, as per "Lucky Balls", that the Bowling Green bull (plus three other existing or potential casts of the bull) have been sold by di Modica (to Joe Lewis), with the obligation to donate the first to the city of NYC.

Interestingly, Charging Bull has previously been 0wned/infringed upon (in pink crochetwork, no less), by Olek (in 2011).
posted by progosk at 10:21 PM on April 13


Paul Bunyan is the classic example of this - he started out as a mascot for a lumber company. Saying he's a folk hero is akin to saying Ronald McDonald is a folk hero.

The Paul Bunyan page on Wikipedia seems to disagree with you about this.
posted by hippybear at 12:46 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


The inevitable copyright exam fact patterns and IP moot problems based on this case are going to be really, really fun. I'm so sad I will be finished law school by the time they come to fruition.

You're a sick, sick person. You realize that, right?

That's also the first time I think anyone's ever uttered the phrase, "I'm so sad I will be finished law school."
posted by leotrotsky at 6:34 AM on April 14


These kinds of statements in this context baffle me. The entire history of art depends on other artists responding to, reworking, criticizing, even insulting people's works of art. I genuinely do not understand how any college-educated person could be unaware of this.

Fully aware of it, but thanks for assuming anyone who possibly slightly disagrees with you must be uneducated, and that the only people who should be commenting on art and politics are people with degrees.

There's a difference between responding to a work of art with your own, and responding to a work of art by physically altering it. Is that what's actually happened here? The bull sculptor believes so. I was responding to all the comments saying that he's got no grounds for that by pointing out that in some jurisdictions he would, and suggesting, bourgeois oaf that I am, that maybe it's a good thing to carefully consider artists' rights to the integrity of their work even when we don't like their work.

I personally don't give a fuck what happens to the bull; I was just thinking through the kneejerk reactions out loud, cos I keep forgetting the internet is now just a machine where Definitely College Educated Persons pull one of two levers to register support or displeasure.
posted by Mike Smith at 7:52 AM on April 14 [4 favorites]


When you make an unqualified argument in this context like "Protecting artists generally is more important than sticking it to this one Ugly Capitalism Statue Guy specifically," you're indicating that either you don't know how profoundly destructive of art practices throughout pretty much all of Western history this kind of copyright maximalism actually is and would have been, or that you don't think that that's particularly important. If the latter rather than the former, then I apologize for misunderstanding you. Your assumption that the people turning out here against copyright maximalism must be motivated by dislike for the bull is, however, also mistaken. I dislike them both. Probably I dislike the girl a little more, as neither of them have any particular aesthetic merit, and, if I must choose between straightforward corporate fascism and the same cynically dressed up in my own politics, I think I choose honesty.

(I really could not care less about your formal education, whatever it may be or not be, btw; one hardly needs to have gone to college to know about art or literary history; but I do believe it's true that if a person has been to college in the West, there's little excuse for unawareness of the millennia-long artistic traditions that the bull-sculptor's position represents an assault on, and yet I still see people with such backgrounds arguing as if Every Artist Is a Romantic Creator Whose Work Springs Entirely From Inside His Own Head And So Copyright Exists to Shelter These Delicate Geniuses From the Rampaging Market.)
posted by praemunire at 9:31 AM on April 14


praemunire, have you had a chance to see the ad that McCann New York created for SSGA? It seems to fit the hypothetical of "take a picture of the bull and girl together and use it as an advertisement for the firm" that you suggested would give DiMarco a respectable copyright claim. I'm wondering if you've come around to that position or think it's still only copyright maximalist who would have sympathy for the sculptor's position?
posted by layceepee at 9:44 AM on April 14


Here's the ad, I believe. I hadn't seen it before now. (It's linked in the original post but I missed it.)
posted by PussKillian at 9:56 AM on April 14


Is the fact that Di Modica's claim doesn't mention the print ad possibly because he's sold the Bowling Green bull, and thus no longer holds its copyright? In which case McCann could have acquired a license to depict the bull from the current copyright holder (either owner Joe Lewis, or the beneficiary of the agreed donation of the work: the city of New York).

His claim is about the infringement on the integrity of the work, something that seems less straightforward than a direct copy/depiction.
posted by progosk at 10:44 AM on April 14


Is the fact that Di Modica's claim doesn't mention the print ad possibly because he's sold the Bowling Green bull, and thus no longer holds its copyright?

a) Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen anything that's suggested he's sold the sculpture; but, more importantly,
b) Copyright is not automatically transferred with the sale of a physical artwork. In the absence of a separate agreement transferring the copyright, Di Modica would retain the copyright even if he sold the sculpture.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:16 PM on April 14


The sale is described in the film I linked above; another copy of the bull is on one of Lewis' golf courses (see pp. 80-81 here).

Thanks for clarifying about separate transfer of copyright. If he hasn't transferred it with the sale, it's definitely odd that he isn't also calling out the simple breach in the ad, surely the fastest way he could have put a stop to the campaign.
posted by progosk at 3:31 PM on April 14


Not only does copyright not transfer with the physical sale of a piece of art, but in most countries that have proper moral rights protection (note: so, you know, not the United States) it cannot be transferred at all, even when the artist sells the actual copyright.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:10 PM on April 14


So "copyright [does] not transfer with the physical sale of a piece of art", "even when the artist sells the actual copyright"? And you're positing this as "proper moral rights protections"?

That's an interesting interpretation of "proper" and "moral", putting the hypothetical artist in the position of saying "I've set out to conduct a legal transaction intended to exchange rights but guess what! it's bogus and I retain all my rights, ha ha ha."

If you want to argue that copyright shouldn't be transferable, that's one thing. But arguing that it shouldn't transfer even when the artist sells it seems logically incoherent.
posted by Lexica at 4:52 PM on April 14


Sorry, that is a badly constructed sentence on my part. Even when you sell the economic copyright, moral rights do not transfer. Obviously when you sell the copyright, copyright transfers -- though there are some countries that don't allow copyright to transfer and instead only allow licences.

Moral rights is a legal term of art, not a value judgement. 'Proper' is a bit of a value judgement, I suppose. Though I mostly was referring to the way the US skated past the Moral Rights requirements in Berne 6bis when it signed by saying that they were covered by things like defamation law. "In keeping with international obligations under the Berne Convention" would be a good translation of my intended meaning.

When you sell a physical object, copyright doesn't automatically transfer with the object. Buying a copy of Harry Potter doesn't give you the right to make a Harry Potter movie. Buying a painting doesn't give you the right to forge additional copies of the painting or to print greeting cards of it. I don't think that's all that controversial.

Even buying the copyright to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone doesn't give you the right to pretend JK Rowling never existed and sell it as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by AN Mefite. The right of the creator to be attributed as the creator is one of the moral rights.

If this were happening somewhere like France with strong moral rights protection, the interesting thing about this case would be whether you could affect the moral rights of a piece of public sculpture by adding another sculpture nearby that interplays with it in a way that affects its meaning. In the US, the first interesting question ends up being whether a moral right against distortion that prejudices the honour of the artist exists in local law at all.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:22 PM on April 14 [4 favorites]


So "copyright [does] not transfer with the physical sale of a piece of art"

Certainly in regards to literary works, the purchase of a manuscript does not necessarily entitle the purchaser to the right to reproduce the content of the ms unless said right has been expressly transferred. I assume that the rights to a piece of art function in somewhat the same way, but I'm not knowledgable enough about IP law to say precisely how. Still, as far as I can see, the artists complaint isn't one of unauthorized reproduction but one of ... unauthorized proximity. And short of contractual agreements re: specific parameters of display, I would be very surprised to learn that unauthorized proximity makes for an actionable case.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:43 PM on April 14


And short of contractual agreements re: specific parameters of display, I would be very surprised to learn that unauthorized proximity makes for an actionable case.

While I have no idea whether a court would take up the case, I wouldn't be surprised if it did since placement does matter a great deal in sculpture, which is an art understood by interaction of mass and space. It isn't proximity alone that is causing the conflict, but placement of Fearless Girl in relation to Charging Bull.

You could reposition Fearless Girl within the same area of proximity and create entirely different effects. Placing her along side Charging Bull and facing her in the same direction would give the appearance of Charging Bull being an element or cause of her fearlessness, or suggest her pose comes from having a Charging Bull at her side. Placing Fearless Girl behind Charging Bull and facing them in the same direction might make is seem as if she had unleashed Charging Bull, making her pose perhaps seem one of pleasure in the force she released, from the same spot behind Charging Bull, facing her in a different direction would remove much of the seeming connection between the two works as their interaction would likely lose a readily understood purpose or "story".

Fearless Girl is, to my mind, unquestionably altering the way people see Charging Bull in something like a parasitic capacity, where Fearless Girl is now defining Charging Bull by its placement. I can easily understand why DiModica is upset, but that doesn't mean I think the courts should or shouldn't agree with him, just that I think the challenges of the case are interesting ones worth thinking about.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:15 PM on April 14 [6 favorites]


I have no idea whether a court would take up the case, I wouldn't be surprised if it did since placement does matter a great deal in sculpture

In the absence of any contractual disputes, however, there's no evidence of any infliction of harm. He's going to need more than merely an assertion that some people might take from his work an interpretation he doesn't intend. Without that, I'm very skeptical that he'll even get near a court. Are there other cases of a court finding for a plaintiff's specific interpretation of a cultural object? I'm can't think of one. (It's true that a NY court once declared that Brancusi's Bird In Flight was a sculpture, not scrap metal, but that was because the plaintiff stood to owe import fees on scrap. The court declined to say if it was a bird or in flight.)
posted by octobersurprise at 9:32 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure about that one way or the other. I imagine there are ways there could be claims of harm from a financial or reputation standpoint, but I gathered the claim was being suggested as a copyright one, which likely be that Fearless Girl is actually incorporating Charging Bull into its work, which there is, from my position, enough of question about to at least entertain the notion of a claim. It seems that even Visbal has come close to suggesting it herself. That still doesn't mean she'd be in the wrong even if it were the case, or the basis of a lawsuit, since there are other questions that might become involved as well, such as the nature of public art among others I mentioned earlier. Again though, I'm not involved in the legal profession, so I'm only speculating based on possibilities that might prove interesting to hear.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:15 AM on April 15


DiModica's claim is, as far as I understand it, that the piece Fearless Girl only makes sense in conjunction with his Charging Bull, that is to say that Fearless Girl relies on Charging Bull in a way that incorporates it into its larger structure. Charging Bull can, in this current placement, be seen as a work in its own right, but as being of a piece with Fearless Girl against DiModica's wishes.

A crude equivalent might be in an artist attaching a film of their own construction to an already existing film that dramatically altered the meaning of the already existent movie, but where the additional footage would make little sense without being directly attached as a whole work. This, in that view, would be something separate from just commenting or responding to a work in a unattached piece as it requires the original to be understood.

The counter claim of course is that Fearless Girl is a separate work and commenting on another artist's work is a legitimate function of art.


You just defined parody, which is in fact one of the strongest defenses for breaching copyright without being punished (aka, Fair Use). It's not a total slam dunk (see for instance the Dr. Suess – OJ parody case), but yes using art to comment on art and culture is an explicit excetion to copyright and I cannot see how it would be otherwise.
posted by dame at 10:48 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The counter to the Fair Use argument is probably that typically when you parody something, the original thing still exists in some form (even if you've made people like it less or think differently about it because your parody). When Richard Prince grabs photos from Instagram, the photos still exist on Instagram. MST3K doesn't make the films it mocks go away. There's the possibility that by essentially including the physical original of a work in the parodic derivative work, it is no longer an appropriate parody.

Think of the Fair Use Factors -- amount of the original taken is one of them. Usually that means 'did we copy the whole photograph?' or 'how many paragraphs of this book were included in this other book?' But in this case the parody is arguably 'taking' the entire original work and making it so it no longer exists because of the change in meaning of the original. The court in Campbell v Acuff-Rose said that parody allows pretty broad taking, but taking so much that the original is subsumed entirely? I'm not sure that would fly, even as parody and derivative work.

That said, I'm also not sure it wouldn't. For copyright nerds, it's a very interesting question.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:19 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


The court in Campbell v Acuff-Rose said that parody allows pretty broad taking, but taking so much that the original is subsumed entirely? I'm not sure that would fly, even as parody and derivative work.

Yes, that's one side of the argument, and a tough one to get around should it be accepted. The other side, I might imagine could try and counter with something more along the lines of a famous personage fair use claim, due to Charging Bull being so famous and in a public space. So, in that sense, its prominence might remove some further protections along the lines of the rights to criticize public officials or other singular famous individuals, when tied with an argument of Fearless Girl being a reaction to Charging Bull rather than of a piece with it. How shaky an argument that would be I have no idea though as I'm just making this up based on my own thoughts about it, not precedent or any of those other wacky legal demands judges so often insist on people using.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:33 PM on April 15


When you make an unqualified argument in this context like "Protecting artists generally is more important than sticking it to this one Ugly Capitalism Statue Guy specifically," you're indicating that either you don't know how profoundly destructive of art practices throughout pretty much all of Western history this kind of copyright maximalism actually is and would have been

No, I'm... just taking a position that is different than yours. Which has obviously triggered your Copyright Maximalism alarm, and the Information Wants To Be Free klaxons are making it hard for you to focus on any subtleties, or the possibility that I'm not the intellectual property droid you're looking for.

I could do the same and assume that anyone who puts words like "copyright maximalism" into my mouth the instant I suggest that maybe sometimes individual living creators should have some rights over their creations is someone who's never actually tried subsisting on art, or any other easily reproduced product, themselves for a long amount of time, and write you off with equal contempt and aplomb. But I'm not going to do that because I don't fucking know you, and if I did, that might strike me as just as hilarious as you accusing me of "copyright maximalism."

I know net culture these days is very encouraging of permanently sorting everyone into either Ignorant Thought Enemy or Handsome Brilliant Ally based on the slightest signifiers, but please try and resist being a part of that, especially since MeFi has so far managed to remain a sanctuary from that kind of shite.
posted by Mike Smith at 8:11 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine suggested that, if they'd consulted with the original artist, a compromise could have been reached - say, the statue of the girl fearlessly leading the bull rather than defying the bull, which would also better suggest the stated intent of celebrating female leadership.

To me, I pretty much agree with the Seriously, the guy has a point article. Especially if, with the statue being commissioned by a fund worth over $2 trillion dollars, they never tried to contact the original artist beforehand.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:50 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]


I was just popping in to see if anyone had posted that article. I think the point that the plaque refers to SHE (the NASDAQ symbol for an investment fund which the statue is advertising) is salient. It would also be interesting if Di Modica went back in the dead of night and just turned the bull around to face in the opposite direction. Also, maybe someone could add a bear, standing behind Fearless Girl and about to bite her head off.
posted by Grangousier at 5:36 AM on April 16


A friend of mine suggested that, if they'd consulted with the original artist, a compromise could have been reached - say, the statue of the girl fearlessly leading the bull rather than defying the bull, which would also better suggest the stated intent of celebrating female leadership.

Only if you think the purpose of leadership is to lead us off the cliff even faster, as opposed to turning things around.
posted by Lexica at 3:08 PM on April 16


It's a public place. You don't get to control what people do around your statue in a public place, the public (in the form of their government) gets to. And yes, if the Louvre wants to put whatever paintings they want to next to the Mona Lisa they can, for the same reason. People are just being bizarre. I'm fine with artist's rights in terms of not being able to modify their actual art object, but when it comes to their tender feelings being hurt because they don't like the positioning of stuff around them, they can damn well fuck off.
posted by tavella at 3:45 PM on April 16


I think that, if they filled the whole are with concrete, then erected a jumbotron that would show alternating pictures of a) the bull, b) the girl, and c) the bull and girl, that everyone would be completely satisfied.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:07 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


ok but you gotta put a guillotine in front of it
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:21 PM on April 17


Caroline Criado Perez: On Fearless Girl, women & public art; or, no, seriously, the guy does not have a point. Placing the statue controversy in a larger context of public representation of women and sexism.

I mean it is interesting that an artist puts a highly masculine symbol out to be associated with Capitalism, and the woman commenting on it is seen as the aggressor. He is after all stating that the area is his, a male domain, and a woman has no business intruding on it.
posted by happyroach at 1:48 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


I mean it is interesting that an artist puts a highly masculine symbol out to be associated with Capitalism, and the woman commenting on it is seen as the aggressor. He is after all stating that the area is his, a male domain, and a woman has no business intruding on it.

And progosk's comment, with its link showing a previous sculpture of a hawk carrying a naked woman away in its talons, demonstrates clearly that DiModica's objection is indeed that his gorer is being oxed.
posted by jamjam at 2:42 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the girl sculpture may be a corporate ploy, but the reaction to it and the fury is still extremely revealing. Even in this thread -- people saying the sculpture might be acceptable if they asked the male sculptor's permission for it and had the girl playing nice-nice with the bull instead of defying it. Essentially saying that male performance makes it a male space and women are only allowed under sufferance and if they are sufficiently non-aggressive.
posted by tavella at 3:33 PM on April 17 [4 favorites]


See also Olek's yarn bombing of the bull. (Di Modica's pal Arthur Piccolo saw to that infringement himself, hey pronto, with a pair of scissors....)
posted by progosk at 4:04 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


The salient part seems to be that the first sculpture had no actual right to be there, correct?

And that all those buildings along Wall st. should really just be public housing, and the people who currently work there should spend the rest of their miserable lives making tiny bull sculptures from refuse, to sell on the street, as penance?

It's possible I don't understand how the morals of stories work.

posted by aspersioncast at 5:57 PM on April 17


The salient part seems to be that the first sculpture had no actual right to be there, correct?

No, the first sculpture has every right to be there. Charging Bull was a guerrilla installation, but was eventually moved from its original location to the current one and is on loan by DiModica to the city.

See also Olek's yarn bombing of the bull. (Di Modica's pal Arthur Piccolo saw to that infringement himself, hey pronto, with a pair of scissors ....)

The yarn-bombing is an interesting case, especially given the comment on the photograph at one of the links:

In a tribute to the original sculptor of the Charging Bull on Wall Street, who installed the bull without permission, Olek covered it with a crocheted suit. The suit was taken off by park staff two hours later.

At least one of the distinctions between Fearless Girl and Olek’s work is that the former is a permanent installation. What if Olek kept yarn-bombing the bull every day, making the work impossible to remove? Could she be sued for infringement?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:31 PM on April 17


Essentially saying that male performance makes it a male space and women are only allowed under sufferance and if they are sufficiently non-aggressive.

I have found that, like the person who wrote the article I linked to, this is the sort of statement that I've seen gets made a lot. That it doesn't matter how much you might say you like the statue or appreciate the message or are at all positive about the message being imparted, that you can agree so much with a lot of the narrative ...

But if you have a qualm about the source of and advertorial status of the little girl statue, or have even thought to have a moment of empathy for how it might feel to have someone else position your art as one of the evils of this world - apparently thinking the situation being more complicated than it first appears is even something worth commenting on, well you can't be described as soldiers of the patriarchy fast enough - enemy soldiers to be dismissed and destroyed, a classic Them vs. Us where They only exist as part of the problem, rather than just... other people in this community.

I want the bull to be yarn-bombed every day. I find the neat - facile, but neat - idea of the girl statue to be much more in line with a recent, much-derided Pepsi commercial now that its status as an ad has been revealed, even though I still agree with that underlying concept of female empowerment. I don't think the bull statue guy should be suing necessarily, but knowing where the statue came from and what he thinks it means allowed me to actually see why he might want to fight against the message his statue not only imparts when taken in tandem with the girl statue, but also is now being claimed it has always imparted. I sympathise because it's not just that he should accept that people will get different things from what he intended, but there has been a vocal, public effort to position his work as having a different, negative message, and anyone who tries to disagree is attacked and derided.

But also, I think repeatedly insisting people can only be holding a differing view from you because misogyny is an over-simplification at best, a recurring descent to personal attacks and attempts at bullying to silence those who disagree with you at worst. And the greater leaps of logic required to make the claims of bigotry, the fuzzier the connections between what was said and what people are accused of really meaning are, the more and more it looks like the latter.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:46 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


What if Olek kept yarn-bombing the bull every day, making the work impossible to remove? Could she be sued for infringement?

First, it's much more likely that she'd charged with an offense like criminal mischief or vandalism. When Tony Shafrazi spray-painted Picasso's Guernica, he was charged with criminal mischief; he wasn't sued for copyright infringement. Second, IANAL, but in such an instance said artist might be guilty of conversion, but they still, AFAIK, wouldn't be guilty of copyright infringement, because no unauthorized reproduction would've taken place.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:26 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


But if you have a qualm about the source of and advertorial status of the little girl statue

Except you didn't say it should be removed because it was advertising. Instead, you advocated a very specific series of changes that gave the male sculptor the veto right over what was allowed in a public space, and most tellingly, a series of actions that would remove the female statue's aggression and defiance.

I'm sure you don't think of it as misogyny -- we rarely see our own biases. I know I've had some painful moments when people pointed out my own.
posted by tavella at 5:23 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Personally, I see questions about the orientation of the status as less about misogyny and more related to the legal wrangling over this instance. One can find misogynistic notes in this context oi one wishes, but the broader question about working out a compromise does not seem to have such ramifications. (indeed, a compromise worked out in advance would have probably totally circumvented all problems. But then, a savvy wall street firm knows that a girl leading a bull is less likely to inspire than a girl opposing a bull, as weirdly garbled as the message may be.)
posted by Going To Maine at 5:36 PM on April 18


There's an area of copyright scholarship that suggests that copyright (along with other IP protection) is, in general, a tool of the patriarchy -- that it reifies existing power imbalances by protecting the interests of those who already have structural power. From that perspective, the fact that any existing, entrenched sculpture is more likely to be by a male artist means that anyone arguing in favour of moral rights protection in this case is engaging in structural misogyny.

Does that mean that anyone who favours of Di Modica is engaging in personal misogyny? I dunno. Maybe we'd be having a totally different reaction if someone had done this to an existing sculpture by a woman, or if the energies of the two sculptures were not so obviously masculine and feminine, but it seems like a stretch to make that assumption.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:54 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Instead, you advocated a very specific series of changes that gave the male sculptor the veto right over what was allowed in a public space, and most tellingly, a series of actions that would remove the female statue's aggression and defiance.

Rather, I related what a friend had suggested because it hadn't been already suggested in-thread but seemed to meet several of the other commenter's criticisms - such as (amongst others) those from the start of the thread that point out that, were they in motion, the implication is the girl is about to find out that standing like that in front of a charging bull is going to get you messily squashed.

Advocating may be thought to be inherent in saying that, but I didn't actually say I supported it - I just thought it was an interesting point of potential discussion. Though in the next paragraph I did say what I did agree with, which is the blog post. A post essentially saying 'I like the point of the artwork, but it's really not a simple man-monster attacks all women story, though when I point this out I get attacked as well'. This is a site for conversation, after all.

If we're pointing out biases, then, maybe you need to look at why you instinctively gloss over nuance and dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with your simplistic world-view.

octobersurprise: When Tony Shafrazi spray-painted Picasso's Guernica, he was charged with criminal mischief

Some of that would have come down to potential to damage the art, presumably? I don't at all know, but knitting a bull hat would seem an obviously more temporary adornment. Or is it down to the context of what he sprayed, why he did it, and what he said when ordered not to do it again?
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:59 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I don't at all know, but knitting a bull hat would seem an obviously more temporary adornment.

Yes, my answer was in reply to the hypothetical "What if Olek kept yarn-bombing the bull every day, making the work impossible to remove? Could she be sued for infringement?" Which is to say, that actually defacing/trying to deface the Bull might violate the law in several ways, but still wouldn't be an infringement of copyright.

I went looking to see if anyone had written about legalities surrounding this controversy and found very little in a quick search. Most takes seem more interested in the dramatic and conceptual issues. This piece at Techdirt is the most thorough I found: "Legal Threat From Creator Of Wall St. Bull Statue Even More Full Of Bull Than Expected."
posted by octobersurprise at 8:39 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


It seems like there are three issues at play here (and being discussed in this thread).

* The legal rights and merits of this case.
* The 'moral rights' of the artist involved (if his artwork was altered by the placement of this other statue, is that okay? is it right?).
* The artistic, symbolic, and political statements and issues that both statues bring up (further complicated by the guerrilla art vs. corporate art in regards to the statues).

In my mind, these are all fascinating discussions, worth having. But it feels like sometimes these threads are being intertwined, at times in ways that are not helpful to the discussion.

Personally, I think adding a ball and chain to the hammering man made it better art, and should have been permanently added to the wonderful Seattle sculpture - it's political point was powerful. But I can also understand and sympathize with the artist that felt like his (rather boring) artwork was being transformed into something didn't approve of. I was sad when it was removed. I'm not sure I'd have the same perspective on the ball & chain addition if it were a corporate advertisement for something or another.
posted by el io at 11:33 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


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