A Tussle Over Wall Street Sculptures

Apr 15, 2017
Originally published on April 15, 2017 8:40 am
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The face-off between Fearless Girl and Charging Bull has grown more tense. If you recall, Fearless Girl is a sculpture that a Wall Street investment firm commissioned for International Women's Day this past March. She was installed directly opposite Wall Street's famous Charging Bull sculpture. The artist who made Charging Bull wants that girl gone. He says she diminishes his piece. We're joined now by our friend from New York Magazine, art critic Jerry Saltz, for some perspective on the sculptural kerfuffle. Thanks for coming back to our show.

JERRY SALTZ: Thanks for having me, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So what do you think of Arturo Di Modica's view that - he's the sculptor that made the Charging Bull. Can he dictate what other art ought to be nearby? It doesn't seem to work for artists in museums and galleries.

SALTZ: Well, that's a mouthful. And first of all, you said the sculptor Arturo Di Modica. I would not even call him an artist, frankly. I think of him more as, at best, a skilled craftsman with a totally cliched idea of what sculpture is. And he plopped this thing down, paid for it with his own money. God love him. And the thing has been horrible ever since then.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

SALTZ: So...

WERTHEIMER: So I take it you don't like it.

SALTZ: I think it's kind of a joke. I think it has nothing to do with Wall Street.

WERTHEIMER: Well, bullish markets - that sort of thing - yeah?

SALTZ: I actually think that that's the opposite - that the market - they're not big, strong bulls. I think the best animal would have been maybe a sheep because the market does what other people in the market already have done. It follows itself. In fact, the Fearless Girl sculpture, which is probably just as bad, at least points out something about the fake masculinity of a bull market, which is that it can be scared to death by anything. Maybe the animal signifying Wall Street should have been - I don't know - a gerbil.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) No. So you're not fond of each of these in - separately or together.

SALTZ: I'll tell you why - because neither has an ounce of originality. Neither has a new way of dealing with material, form, subject matter, surface, color, public art.

WERTHEIMER: I'm getting it. I'm getting it.

SALTZ: I'm sorry. Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: So what to do?

SALTZ: OK. There are a couple of solutions. I would first offer the Solomonic solution - take them both out. Or perhaps you would want to put the girl in back of the bull or standing alongside the bull. In fact, Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" begins in the first paragraph with Ishmael wandering down right on this corner, having his nose lead him to water. I'd rather have a sculpture of Melville there. I think the point is most public sculpture is bad because there are too many people involved with making the decision. It's too democratized because of, necessarily, where it goes.

WERTHEIMER: Jerry Saltz is senior art critic for New York Magazine. Thank you very much.

SALTZ: Thank you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.