Bullfight in Bowling Green! “Charging Bull” artist has a cow over “Fearless Girl” statue

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Photo by Milo Hess The sculpture, called “The Fearless Girl,” by artist Kristen Visbal was placed at the northern tip of Bowling Green facing down the iconic “Charging Bull” late Tuesday, on the eve of International Women’s Day, as part of a campaign by finance company State Street Corporation to promote women in leadership in the financial sector.

Photo by Milo Hess
“Charging Bull” artist Di Modica argues that “Fearless Girl” derives its meaning entirely from its juxtaposition against his own work, thus making it a textbook example of copyright-violating “derivative art.”


The artist behind Bowling Green’s famed “Charging Bull” says that its newly minted neighbor, feminist icon “Fearless Girl,” is utterly derivative of his iconic brass bovine, and is demanding her big-money financier take its wildly successful marketing gimmick elsewhere and pay him damages for violating his legal rights.

Photo by Colin Mixson "Charging Bull" artist Arturo Di Modica claimed State Street Global Advisors violated copyright laws with its "Fearless Girl" statue at a press conference Wednesday.

Photo by Colin Mixson
“Charging Bull” artist Arturo Di Modica claimed State Street Global Advisors violated copyright laws with its “Fearless Girl” statue at a press conference Wednesday.

“I don’t like it,” said Arturo Di Modica, who spent $360,000 of his own money to fabricate and install “Charging Bull” opposite the New York Stock Exchange without a permit in 1989. “They’re supposed to find another place to do their advertisement.”

Attorneys for Di Modica fired off letters to State Street Global Advisors and marketing firm McCann Worldgroup, which designed the marketing stunt, on Tuesday, which accused the companies of “commercializ[ing] and exploit[ing]” ‘Charging Bull’ and violating copyright laws, before going into the Sicilian artist’s demands that she be relocated and he get paid.

“Fearless Girl,” according to Di Modica’s lawyers, wouldn’t be “fearless” if she weren’t facing down his bull, and the effect that State Street’s statue creates is entirely dependent on Di Modica’s opus.

“The statue of the young girl becomes the ‘Fearless Girl’ only because of the ‘Charging Bull,’” the letter reads. “The work is incomplete with Mr. Di Modica’s ‘Charging Bull,’ and as such it constitutes a derivative work of the ‘Charging Bull.’”

Attorney Norman Siegel cited State Street promotional materials referencing the new statue’s juxtaposition with the bull at a press conference with the artist on April 12.

“A deliberate choice was made to exploit and appropriate the ‘Charging Bull’ through the placement of fearless girl,” said.

Photo by Colin Mixson Attorney Norman Siegel holds up a picture of a plaque initially placed at the base of the "Fearless Girl" statue that he says proves the sculpture is an advertisement for State Street's SHE exchange traded fund.

Photo by Colin Mixson
Attorney Norman Siegel holds up a picture of a plaque initially placed at the base of the “Fearless Girl” statue that he says proves the sculpture is an advertisement for State Street’s SHE exchange traded fund.

Furthermore, by turning “Charging Bull” into a de facto emblem of misogyny, State Street unilaterally altered the public meaning of the sculpture — intended by Di Modica as a symbol of American strength in the face of the 1987 stock market crash — into an object of fear, the letter states.

“The inescapable implication is that the ‘Charging Bull’ is the source of that fear and power, and a force against what’s right,” Di Modica’s attorneys wrote to the investment firm.

The irony of State Street appropriating the bull statue as a symbol of sexism in a campaign to promote women in corporate leadership is that the would-be feminist-crusader is a fairly poor role model in that regard. Of State Street’s 11 board members, only three are women, and of its 28 top executives, only five are women.

“In terms of practicing what we’re preaching, we absolutely know what have further to go,” said State Street spokeswoman Anne McNally.

But Di Modica’s main beef is that “Fearless Girl” is just an ingenious marketing scheme, with State Street aiming to make a buck off his bull.

Photo by Milo Hess The statue was instant selfie-bait, of course.

Photo by Milo Hess
The plaque advertising State Street’s SHE fund (seen here at the statue’s feet) remained in place until the end of March.

Throughout the media frenzy the stature enjoyed last month, State Street’s gender-diversity-tracking exchange traded fund — ticker symbol “SHE” — was featured prominently in a plaque placed at the base of fearless girl, which read: “Know the power of women in leadership — SHE makes a difference.”

The plaque was removed in late March after “Fearless Girl” was enrolled in the Department of Transportation’s street art program, which has a specific signage format that the plaque didn’t adhere to, according to McNally.

Regardless, the sign proved that “Fearless Girl” was created for commercial purposes, according to Di Modica’s attorneys, therefore voiding any “fair use” protection and violating the artist’s sole right to reproduce the image of the bull for financial gain.

Di Modica and his legal team were joined at Wednesday’s press conference by Bowling Green Association chairman Arthur Piccolo, who spearheaded the effort to give “Charging Bull” a permanent home at Bowling Green back in 1989. He suggested “Fearless Girl” be moved to Broad Street and positioned to face the New York Stock Exchange, where her message of gender equality could be better directed against the real perpetrators of Wall Street’s patriarchy.

Photo by Colin Mixson Bowling Green Association chairman Arthur Piccolo suggested that "Fearless Girl" be moved to outside the New York Stock Exchange, where its message of gender equality would be better directed.

Photo by Colin Mixson
Bowling Green Association chairman Arthur Piccolo suggested that “Fearless Girl” be moved to outside the New York Stock Exchange, where its message of gender equality would be better directed.

“If Fearless Girl has a message of equality, all these companies that are not practicing equality, their stock is traded at the New York Stock Exchange,” Piccolo said.

Piccolo was among the first to call out State Street’s own poor record on female empowerment, and to lodge allegations of copyright infringement. In a March 28 letter to city officials, where he wrote, “… McCann Advertising and their executives were involved and are involved in a highly coordinated carefully planned conspiracy to defraud Arturo Di Modica of his copyright.”

The Bowling Green advocate’s defense of Di Modica’s copyright was so impassioned that it provoked a response on legal blog lexology.com, where Sullivan & Worcester attorney Nicholas O’Donnell wrote that even though the placement of “Fearless Girl” near “Charging Bull” may have been deliberate, that didn’t constitute a deliberate copying of Arturo’s work.

State Street acknowledged receipt of Di Modica’s letter, although McNally declined to comment on behalf of the investment firm.

Mayor de Blasio did chime in on Twitter, however, where he accused Di Modica of sexism.

“Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl,” de Blasio tweeted in reference to a Newsweek article about Di Modica’s beef.

In response, Piccolo accused the mayor of libeling the artist, and pointed out that Seigel has filed Freedom of Information requests to uncover any communications between City Hall and State Street Global Advisors or McCann, to determine if the mayor’s office colluded unlawfully in arranging the below-the-radar approval of the project that allowed the stature and advertising plaque to appear by surprise on International Women’s Day — the same day State Street’s SHE fund began trading.

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One Response to Bullfight in Bowling Green! “Charging Bull” artist has a cow over “Fearless Girl” statue

  1. Mayor de Blasio statement is so ignorant of the issue. The issue is the acknowledgement of the statement and sole placement of art honoring its inherent creation, whether you have criticism or not on an individual level. These are not means for advertisement alone or together. The city should honor its own creative representation since it was once the center of the art world.

    Beat Keerl

SoHo News April Update: Gardens & Megastores

– Elizabeth Street Garden Situation
– 462 Broadway Megastore Redux
– D.I.D. Meeting in SoHo
Elizabeth Street Garden Situation
You may have read in the local press that a new group has formed to further address the Elizabeth Street Garden issue.
Named “Elizabeth Street Garden” its purpose is to take a more aggressive stand to preserve the green space.  It was formed by the leaseholder of the garden, who leases the open space and the adjoining building, an art gallery and his residence, from the City.  One approach may include legal action to preserve the park.
This new group is not to be confused with the original “Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden” (FESG), the organization with whom we have been working diligently for the past four years.  FESG has been running the events and the programs we have all come to love and enjoy.  Confusion might arise because of the similarity in the names of both organizations and their similar Facebook pages.
The new group is now programming the events at the Garden, an effort FESG had undertaken excellently for years  We continue to work with FESG to advance its mission of saving this oasis from Chin and de Blasio’s bulldozers.  If you wish any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us.
462 Broadway Megastore Plan Redux
Our February News Update reported a developer’s plan to apply for a Special Permit to allow a three-story, 45,000 sq.ft. department store conversion at 462 Broadway, on the northeast corner of Grand and Broadway, that extends all the way to Crosby. This is the former home of the Culinary Institute.
SoHo’s zoning prohibits retail stores greater than 10,000 sq. ft.  For more space, a Special Permit must be obtained from the City Planning Commission.  This is to prevent SoHo from becoming like Herald Square.
Scores of residents attended the community board meeting in February to protest yet another megastore along Broadway.  There they learned that the landlord also plans to apply for the Special Permit for the northern portion of the building, 466 Broadway.  This could bring 90,000 sq. ft. of retail into a single building!  SoHo began its retail odyssey with small specialized boutiques.  These added charm.  Megastores do not.
Taken aback by the residents’ (and community board’s) apprehension of his proposal, the developer withdrew the original plans and now has come back with a modified proposal.  What these plans are we do not know, but it obviously means that he is still wants a store greater than 10,000 sq.ft.
The community board is holding a second hearing on the new plans this week.  We urge you to attend, even if you do not live on Broadway or Grand or Crosby Streets.  If this developer gets away with his plan, do not be surprised if a department store opens up on your block next.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 12, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Forbes Building, 60 Fifth Avenue at 12th Street; Room 150 (ID required)
D.I.D. Meeting in SoHo
Our allies at Downtown Independent Democrats will be holding the club’s monthly meeting in SoHo next week.  Guest speakers include Councilmember Rosie Mendez, who represents the district to the east of ours, as well as Jeannine Kiely of Friends of Elizabeth Street Garden, who will give an update on their efforts to save the green space. Two candidates running to unseat Margaret Chin will present their platform and our two local Democratic District leaders will also give a report on local issues.
You need not be a Democrat to attend; in fact, many folks who come to the meetings are not.  But if the current political climate, locally and nationally, inspires you to get more involved, here is your opportunity to meet like-minded neighbors.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 26, 6:00 p.m.
WHERE: 125 Greene Street, 5th floor (Prince/Houston)
Sean Sweeney
SoHo Alliance

Smorgasburg will take a bite of Hudson Square

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The Trinity Real Estate-owned lot at Duarte Square that is slated to get a Smorgasbord outdoor market in August. Photo by Eric Demby

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The operators of Smorgasburg, the popular Brooklyn outdoor food market, plan to start up a version of it in Duarte Square, at Canal St. and Sixth Ave., this summer.

The outdoor-food outfit has signed a two-year lease for the space with Trinity Real Estate. The plan is for it to operate seven days a week, starting early this August.

They are seeking a full liquor license, and will make a presentation to the Community Board 2 State Liquor Authority Committee on Thurs., April 13, at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 151 Sullivan St., lower hall. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

Jonathan Butler — who co-founded Smorgasburg along with Eric Demby — said it won’t be as big an affair as some are fearing. Yes, it will be seven days a week, but the weekdays won’t be as big a production, he said.

“Really, we’re talking about four or five food trucks during the weekdays,” he said. “On the weekends, we’ll probably have another 30 or 40 market vendors that pop up. But it’s really not on the scale of our Brooklyn markets.

“There’s a desire for more food in that neighborhood,” he added. “The Hudson Square BID did a study two years ago that found that.”

He was referring to the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district.

Food trucks actually will be a first for Smorgasburg, though Trinity has had them in the Duarte Square lot before. The trucks will have electrical hookups, Butler noted.

The food trucks, seating and a 20-foot-long bar located inside a shipping container will be concentrated in the northern portion of the square, along Grand St. There will also be some shade structures and pavers to create a patio.

Meanwhile, on weekends, the southern part of the square will be filled with other food vendors, plus flea-market vendors. Butler and Demby are also the founders of Brooklyn Flea.

The weekend vendors will each have a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent with a table out in front. Those vendors typically pay Smorgasburg $250 to $300 a day.

On a questionnaire for C.B. 2 that liquor-license applicants fill out, Butler wrote that Smorgasburg’s operating hours at the Hudson Square location would be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday.

The plan, as described on the questionnaire, is described as “Highly curated outdoor market with food and shopping, plus occasional family-friendly programming and special events.”

In the “overall seating information” section, 20 tables with 120 seats are listed. “Live” and “amplified” music are checked, as well as “iPod / CD’s.”

Asked about emissions from the trucks’ cooking operation, Butler said it would be minimal.

“I don’t think four food trucks will generate any negative effects,” he told The Villager.

“Occasional special events, such as corporate functions, private parties and community programming will also occur at the site,” another response on the questionnaire reads.

On the questionnaire, in the spot where it asks for the number of bars, Butler filled in “2.” However, he told The Villager that there will only be one bar, while a second shipping container at the site will be used “mostly for cold storage and dishwashing.”

According to its Web site, Smorgasburg is America’s largest weekly open-air food market, attracting 20,000 to 30,000 people to Brooklyn each week. It has two locations in that borough: on the waterfront in Williamsburg at Kent Ave. on Saturdays and in Prospect Park on Sundays.

Smorgasburg started in 2011 as an offshoot of Brooklyn Flea, which started in 2008. There is even a Los Angeles Smorgasburg now, as well as one in Kingston, N.Y.

They also operate Berg’n, a beer and food hall in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and ran a pop-up food hall / beer garden in the South St. Seaport from 2013 to 2016.

The Kent Ave. / Williamsburg market’s hours are from 11 a.m. to only 6 p.m. Despite the answer on the questionnaire, Butler said he doubted the Duarte Square Smorgasburg would really run as late as 11 p.m. or midnight.

“I don’t think it’s going to go to 12,” he said. “We have been in the Seaport the last three years. It’s a really nice after-work scene — after 6 p.m., go have a couple of beers and some food — but after 9 it’s kind of dead.”


A floor plan of the Duarte Square Smorgasburg. The five gray rectangular boxes at top and at left represent food trucks. The two dark rectangles at right are shipping containers. Other markings represent tables, “shade structures” — likely large umbrellas — and a patio covered with pavers. There will also be landscaping. The market apparently won’t use the part of the lot east of Sullivan St., which is basically an access road at this spot that is not open to car traffic.

The Brooklyn locations are far larger, with about 100 vendors each day.

“It might not even be called Smorgasburg,” Butler noted of the Duarte Square location. “I hesitate to use the word ‘Smorgasburg’ because it implies a gazillion vendors.”

Asked how many people they anticipate the market would draw on a daily basis, Butler said he really could not predict that, and there is no telling at this point if the location will even be a hit.

As for the Brooklyn Flea aspect, Butler said it would include things like vintage clothing and handmade designs.

Obviously, the Kent Ave. market has had a big impact on that neighborhood.

“When we started Smorgasburg in 2011 on Kent Ave., no one was going over there,” he noted.

Similarly, he said of Duarte Square, “Part of the idea is to activate that part of Canal St. — place-making. That particular part of Canal St. could use some sort of Jane Jacobs-style place-making.”

As for entertainment, Butler said it won’t be rock music.

“No, no, no, this is not a rock concert venue or a rock club,” he stressed. “We’ll sometimes have private events or a talk or presentation on culture or politics. We have family-friendly events.”

Previously, Butler founded Brownstoner, the popular Brooklyn real estate blog, before launching Brooklyn Flea with Demby in 2008.

The main residential building near the location is 80 Varick St. Darlene Lutz, a fine-art adviser who lives there, is a frequent critic of Trinity Real Estate’s ongoing leasing of the space for outdoor events. Trinity’s stated long-term plan for the block is to build a residential tower, with a new public elementary school for the city in its base. But that plan, clearly, has yet to get off the ground.

Previously, in February 2015 Trinity notably leased the space for Nike Zoom, a basketball-and-sneaker themed extravaganza during N.B.A. All-Star Week. Though not a commercial use, Occupy Wall Street also hoped to take over the space after it was evicted from Zuccotti Park back in 2011, but Trinity said the lot wasn’t suitable for an encampment.

Lutz admitted that her building is the source of 12 letters in support for Smorgasburg, but she figures those are from commercial tenants whose employees would likely enjoy the open-air market.

“Seating for 120 — this is an outdoor restaurant,” she warned. “No farmers’ market operates seven days a week.

“All the young tech employees around here will love it. It’s great if you can enjoy it, have a few drinks, and then go back to your home in another neighborhood.

“We’re talking over 20,000 square feet of lot, which is gravel and a cyclone fence — no trees to block the sound, and residential apartments just 30 feet away. Will my air conditioner become a grease trap for people cooking hamburgers?”

Lutz spoke to a lobbyist who is pushing the plan and asked him how Smorgasburg would operate in the winter.

“He said they’re going to bring in shipping containers,” she said.

“The small brick-and-mortar businesses in this area will suffer,” she predicted.

More to the point, she said, she’s impatient for Trinity to start building its residential tower there — even though that obviously would be noisy and disruptive.

“The school in that building was the sweetener for the rezoning,” she noted.

Five years ago, Trinity pushed through a rezoning for the formerly manufacturing-zoned area to allow residential use.

Carter Booth, the C.B. 2 S.L.A. Committee co-chairperson who will lead the April 13 meeting, said Smorgasburg is definitely something new for the board. He said that, as usual, he didn’t want to comment before the public hearing, which would be a chance to flesh out the details of the plan and address questions.

Ellen Baer, president and C.E.O. of the Hudson Square Connection BID, referred questions about the Smorgasboard plan to John Franqui, Trinity Real Estate’s senior vice president of real estate business and operations. (The BID is essentially a creation of Trinity, which is by far the Hudson Square area’s biggest property owner.) Franqui did not respond to a request for comment by press time.