In the beginning was Bowling Green, a small, cobble-stoned park in the heart of Wall Street.
Then came Charging Bull. A rare example of capitalist guerilla art, it was created and installed in 1989 by sculptor Arturo Di Modica as a tribute to “the strength and power of the American people”. Whatever you think of its significance, it’s undeniably a beautifully crafted work, and is one of the best-known public monuments in Manhattan. You have to be a pretty grim ideologue to suppress a surge of childlike delight when you see it onsite.
Then came Fearless Girl, a work funded by an investment fund and installed with the city’s permission. It deftly inverts the entire meaning of Charging Bull, and creates a charged space that energizes the whole square. It’s a fascinating inversion on many levels. The “Fearless Girl” is a “tribute” to women’s power, but it’s also an advertisement for a Wall Street firm whose ticker code is SHE (get it?) The newly neutered “Charging Bull” celebrates the power of capitalism, but was actually the more radical work: Di Modica paid for it himself, smuggled it into Bowling Green and installed it without authorization. It was impounded, removed, and only re-installed in the face of public outcry.
Di Modica is understandably pissed at the way his work has been trumped. But it’s happened; and Bowling Green as a whole is now a new work, incorporating both sculptures, their original and re-conceived meanings, and the space itself.
I personally like public art that allows the observer a little space for interpretation, and although I thought The Bull was fun, it was obvious and polemical. The Girl is no less polemical, but it adds a clever layer to the story.
So why stop now?
I propose a movement to encourage artists to create additional works for the square that will raise the discussion to ever higher critical levels until Bowling Green is completely jammed with sculptures, all of which comment on and reframe all previous sculptures in a delirious Borgesian explosion of meta-metameanings. The process will cease when there is no further space in the square for (a) sculptures, (b) additional interpretation, and/or (c) people.
I humbly present my contribution to the experiment, and will be launching my crowdfunding campaign shortly. (Thanks, Sooey, for the inspiration!)