Wednesday, April 19, 2017

292. Fearless Girl vs. Charging Bull: the War of the Statues

          Once more, two LibraryThing early reviews of Bill Hope: His Story, and then we'll get to the war of the statues.

graham, March 30, 2017:  I sat down to read this book around 6 p.m.; it's 11:20 p.m. and I've just finished it. I couldn't put it down. This is a very engaging, fast-moving first-hand "biography" of a turn-of-the-century petty thief turned con man which held me enthralled from start to finish.  

terry, April 7, 2017:  Engrossing novel that makes you want to continue reading in order to find out what happens next in the life of Bill Hope. Many ups and downs make it a truely enjoyable read, about a bygone time.

           For a press release of Bill Hope: His Story, go here.

          This is the second title in the Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York.  The first in the series is The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), mention of which appears at the end of this post. 

         The book can be ordered from Amazon and will be shipped after the release date of May 17, 2017.  But the paperback, which goes for $20, will cost an additional $4.95 for shipping, unless you order books totaling $25 or more.  The book is also available now from the author and will be mailed immediately ($20 + postage).  And now let's have a look at a new version of the Beauty and the Beast.

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         A favorite tourist attraction in Manhattan for the last 27 years has been sculptor Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull,” a huge 3½-ton bronze bull, head lowered with flared nostrils, pawing the ground and ready to charge, which the artist planted in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Broad Street without permission on December 15, 1989, as a Christmas gift to the city.  Hundreds of people had seen and admired it, before the police arrived to haul it away.  Howls of protest immediately erupted, so the chastened authorities relocated the statue to nearby Bowling Green, where it stands at one end of a little  park, facing up Broadway.  Tourists from all over the world have flocked to see it ever since, a bold image of dynamism and virility, of massive and perhaps dangerous power.  Mr. Di Modica says that it conveys his feelings following the 1987 stock market crash: a salute to a resurgent (i.e., bullish) stock market and nation.  Onlookers snap photos of one another posing with it, children crawl over it, and adults touch the nose, horns, and testicles for good luck.  It has become a symbol of the city, some even comparing it in this regard to the Statue of Liberty.

File:Wall Street Bull - panoramio.jpg
Gabriele Giuseppini

         But now the plot thickens.  On March 7, 2017, the night before International Women’s Day, another bronze statue was placed directly in front of the bull: “Fearless Girl,” a four-foot-tall girl, chin up, feet apart, hands on her hips, standing defiantly as if confronting the bull.  Once again, a surprise installation without a city permit, and once again an instant hit with the public, who have flocked to see, admire, and photograph the girl, and celebrate her feminine, indeed feminist, challenge to the snorting maleness of the bull.  Designed by artist Kristen Visbal, the work was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors and the advertising firm McCann as part of a marketing campaign for SSGA’s index fund investing in companies with women in senior positions.  Says a plaque below the statue, “Know the power of women in leadership.  SHE makes a difference.”  (SHE, be it noted, is the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol.)  Another instant hit with the public, “Fearless Girl” has been granted a city permit allowing it to stay on the site until the next International Women’s Day in March 2018.    Once again, a dramatic sculptural coup-d’état has succeeded.

         Or has it?  At a news conference in Midtown Manhattan on April 12, Mr. Di Modica denounced “Fearless Girl” as an insult to his bull, whose message, he insists, is not male power and domination, but “freedom in the world, peace, strength, power, and love.”  Confronted by “Fearless Girl,” he says, the bull has been transformed into “a negative force and a threat.”  While he insists that he is in no way hostile to gender equality, he wants “Fearless Girl” to be moved elsewhere, and he and his lawyers –  he now has a team of them – have sent letters to this effect to the mayor and to SSG, McCann, and other relevant parties.  But the mayor has already hailed “Fearless Girl” as a symbol of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.”  And he sees the statue as especially relevant in the light of Donald Trump’s election, and the women’s rights marches that followed his inauguration.  Which is a lot of relevance for a four-foot statue of a little girl facing down a massive bull on the verge of charging.  And Mr. Di Modica, while hoping for a peaceful resolution, does not rule out the possibility of litigation, the threat of which only brings more gawking tourists to Bowling Green and its two bronze antagonists.

         So who is right?  Opinion seems to be divided, some agreeing with Mr. Di Modica that “Fearless Girl” ’s presence alters the meaning of the bull and thwarts the sculptor’s intent, while others hail “Fearless Girl” as a symbol of scrappy feminism and women’s newfound right to challenge the dominance of males.   But some observe that if it came to a dust-up between the two, “Fearless Girl” wouldn’t stand a chance; her precious little torso would be hideously gored by the bull’s sharp horns.  The solution, many assert, is to simply remove her to another site, so each of them can have his/her own space.

         Personally, I agree with Mr. Di Modica: the intrusion of “Fearless Girl” is an unwarranted challenge to his work and therefore merits removal to another site.  And aesthetically, I opine that when it comes to “looks,” “Fearless Girl,” scrappy and defiant though she is, can’t hold a candle to the massive dynamism of “Charging Bull.”  And there are those who question whether an index fund and an advertising agency are appropriate vehicles for conveying  the message of female independence – a debate that will probably rage fervently on, while the tourists continue to flock.

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BROWDERBOOKS:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series,  tells the story of a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client   It is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Coming soon:  As previously announced, Americans Are Pigs.

©   2017   Clifford Browder

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