Wall Street Bull Sculptor Doesn’t Have Much Say, by Law, Over “Fearless Girl”


Wall Street statues

The creator of the Manhattan financial district’s “Charging Bull” sculpture has no claim under U.S. law against those who put a statue of a girl defiantly standing up to the bull across from it, according to a Columbia University art law professor.

The New York Post reported March 24 that bull sculptor Arturo Di Modica threatened to sue Wall Street investment firm State Street Global Advisors, which commissioned Kristen Visbal’s “Fearless Girl” to commemorate International Women’s Day March 8.

However, Philippa Loengard, deputy director of Columbia Law School’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts, says Di Modica has no cause of action under the Visual Artists Rights Act, which gives the creators of some kinds of physical art works the right to prevent them from being altered or damaged.

“We have never seen a case where a modification meant a neighboring piece of art,” Loengard told Bloomberg BNA. And even if it did, how would that work, anyway?

If an artist could dictate the arrangement of nearby works of art, museums would “have to curate collections depending on what the artist thought the other paintings in the gallery meant,” Loengard said. But Di Modica created and placed the sculpture on his own—without being asked to do so by the property owners—and doesn’t have the right to demand that it be kept in place, she said.

Di Modica had no permit when he made “Charging Bull” and placed it in front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989. The city government later allowed it to be installed in Bowling Green Park, a few blocks away, where it remains.

Even if Di Modica could make demands, he has nothing to complain about under VARA because his sculpture isn’t being distorted, mutilated or modified by the girl statue’s presence, Loengard said.

Meanwhile, “Fearless Girl” has grown so popular that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's office told the New York Daily News Sunday that the statue would stay put until February 2018.

“She'll be asserting herself and affirming her strength even after her temporary permit expires,” de Blasio’s office tweeted.