The Charging Bull, sometimes referred to as the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull, is a bronze sculpture that stands on Broadway just north of Bowling Green in the Financial District of Manhattan in New York City. It is known as the symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity.
It was created by Italian artist Arturo Di Modica in the wake of the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash. It was designed to represent the strength and power of the American people after the crash.
Di Modica died in his hometown in Sicily at the age of 80 on Friday evening. He had been ill for some time. He had lived for 40 years in New York.
He was deeply moved by the 1987 financial crisis, which saw the New York Stock Exchange lose more than 20% overnight and plunge many people into the "blackest of depressions". That was his motivation to install the bronze beast there.
Installing the giant 3.5 tonne bull was a secret mission for sculptor Arturo Di Modica. He chose the night of 16 December 1989 to install the Charging Bull in New York's financial district. But he had no official permission. So he planned to dump it.
The task was not easy because a police team appeared every 7-8 minutes, the sculptor gave the accounts of that night in an interview to an Italian newspaper earlier this month – weeks before his death.
"Five minutes. The operations shouldn't have lasted more. Otherwise, we'd risk big," he recalled. "After a couple of scouting trips, I had discovered that at night, the police made its rounds on Wall Street every 7-8 minutes," he told La Repubblica.
Some 40 of his friends aided him executing the lightning-swift operation with the help of a truck and a crane. After the statue was planted near Bowling Green Park close to the headquarters of the New York Stock Exchange, Di Modica and his team celebrated uncorking a bottle of champagne.
Since then, the Charging Bull has been the iconic symbol of Wall Street.
As soon as it was set up, it became an instant hit. One of the city's most photographed artworks, the Charging Bull has become a tourist destination in the Financial District. Visitors constantly pose for pictures around it.
Adrian Benepe, a later New York City parks commissioner, said in 2004, "It has become one of the most visited, most photographed, and perhaps most loved and recognised statues in the city of New York. I would say it is right up there with the Statue of Liberty."
The Charging Bull has been a subject of criticism from an anti-capitalist perspective, such as in the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, and has also been compared to the golden calf worshiped by the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt.
The sculpture then shows an aggressive or even belligerent force on the move, but unpredictably. It is not far-fetched to say the theme is the energy, strength, and unpredictability of the stock market.
The bull was cast by the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Di Modica spent $360,000 to create, cast, and install the sculpture following the 1987 stock market crash.
The sculpture was Di Modica's idea. Having arrived penniless in the United States in 1970, he felt indebted to the nation for welcoming him and enabling his career as a successful sculptor.
The Charging Bull was intended to inspire each person who came into contact with it to carry on fighting through the hard times after the 1987 market crash.
Di Modica later recounted to art scribe Anthony Haden-Guest, "My point was to show people that if you want to do something in a moment things are very bad, you can do it. You can do it by yourself. My point was that you must be strong."
In an act of guerrilla art, Bedi-Makky Art Foundry and Di Modica trucked it to Lower Manhattan. On 15 December 1989, they installed it beneath a 60-foot Christmas tree in the middle of Broad Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange Building as a Christmas gift to New Yorkers.
That day, hundreds of onlookers stopped to see it as Di Modica handed out copies of a flier about his artwork.
New York Stock Exchange officials called police later that day, and the New York Police Department seized the sculpture and placed it into an impound lot. The ensuing public outcry led the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to reinstall it two blocks south of the Exchange, in Bowling Green, facing up Broadway just north of Whitehall Street.
The Charging Bull was rededicated at its new location with a ceremony on 21 December 1989.
Another sculpture, the Fearless Girl, designed as a symbol of women empowerment, was posted after some years facing the bull and Di Modica did not like it. The sculpture later got another place in the city.
The Charging Bull technically has a temporary permit allowing it to stand on city property since the city does not own the sculpture, but the temporary permission has lasted since 1989, when city officials said the new location would not be permanent.
Art on loan is usually limited to a year's display, and although the city does not buy art, it does accept donations. By 1993, Di Modica wanted to sell the statue to recover the cost of manufacturing it.
However, there was only one major bid for the statue: a hotel in Las Vegas that offered $300,000.
Di Modica built the Charging Bull as "a joke, a provocation". Instead, it became a "cursedly serious thing" and turned out to be a symbol of American economic strength and people's resilience.