The Charging Bull in the Financial District

Here’s something to think about. I popped to New York (husband on a work trip) and while there I went to see the sculpture of a charging bull in the Financial District. It’s big, raging, and impressive. It has also caused some controversy.

Apparently, bulls have long been associated with the stock market. A rising trend in the markets is known as “a bull market” and a falling trend is known as a “bear market”. Which is why you tend to have The Bull and Bear pubs situated near old markets in the City of London. The Charging Bull, however, was meant to signify something else. Charging Bull was sculpted by Anturo Di Modica in 1989. It was after the stock market crash of 1987, and he wanted to create a symbol of the “strength and power of American people”. The bull is twisting and turning, full of unpredictable energy and strength. I like it.

Now, Di Modica wasn’t commissioned to make the bull, nor was he paid for it. He had the rather clever idea of making five bulls, and placing one in New York (for free) and hoping to sell the other four. As a self-published author, I can relate to his feelings – you just want people to notice and appreciate your talents, then you hope the sales will follow. (Not sure a book placed in a park would work as well though.) Initially, NYPD impounded the bull, but so many people liked it, they were compelled to return it to the street. There are now bulls in Shanghai and Amsterdam (which I assume were paid for). So Di Modica’s gamble paid off. Sort of.

The problem arose later this year, when State Street Global Advisors had a clever marketing strategy of their own (possibly inspired by the success of the Charging Bull). They commissioned Kristen Visbal to make a sculpture of the Fearless Girl, and they placed it in front of the bull. Now, the unleashed power and strength of the bull appear aggressive. The placing of the girl has completely changed the image of the bull. Di Modica is rather annoyed by this, and I guess as he owns the bull, he might come and collect it one day. Alternatively, I think he should make another sculpture – of a calling mother shouting towards the girl. Then instead of being a brave, ‘fearless girl’ she would look like a defiant, stupid child. But then that could go on forever, and probably Wall Street doesn’t want hundreds of sculptures, each one changing the image of the other. (Would make for a good exhibition though, someone should do it.)

Now, what I want you to think about, is this. One thing can very much change in the light of something else. I remember, not so long ago, when the news reports were full of fleeing Syrian refugees, and most people felt very sorry for them. People made big statements about the world needing to help, that our country should allow them in, famous people even announced that they would be willing to house a few families in their mansions. Which were all good, well motivated, human responses.

However, today my local authority is discussing plans to build lots of new houses. No one wants them. No one is discussing who will live in them (and probably it won’t be Syrian refugees, but it will, I assume, be people who do need houses) but no one wants them. Not in our fields, not where we walk our dog, not within sight of our house. You see, the view of meeting the housing needs of others changes. As perhaps, do people’s views about everything. Whenever we make a statement, we need to be aware that unless we see the whole story, our views are likely to change. The strength and power of the American people can look like an aggressive charge against a defenceless girl. And a brave girl can look like a naughty child being stupid. It depends what else is in the picture.



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