January 26, 2013

Arturo DiModica and His Charging Bull

Bronze Cavallo on display in 2013 at Casa Belvedere, Staten Island
Photos by New York Scugnizzo
By Giovanni di Napoli

Since beginning this exercise in ethnic self-awareness I've intermittently written about New York City's public monuments by Sicilian Americans, specifically the works of Anthony de Francisci and Pietro Montana. However, no discussion of Sicilian-American sculptors would be complete without mentioning Arturo DiModica and his world famous Charging Bull

Arturo DiModica was born on January 26, 1941 in Vittoria, a small city in the province of Ragusa, Sicily. Showing signs of artistic ability at an early age, his parents Giuseppe and Angela supported his creative endeavors. When he was 19, DiModica left for Florence to study and refine his skills at the Academia Del Nudo Libero. After just two years he opened his own studio, quickly making a name for himself among critics and collectors alike. He worked primarily in bronze, but also with the highly valued Carrara marble, prized for its use in sculpture since antiquity.

In 1973 DiModica came to America to broaden his artistic horizons. He opened a workshop on Grand Street in SoHo, meeting with almost immediate success. Winning awards and accolades from the New York art community, his works are highly prized. He purchased property on Crosby Street in 1978 and built his current studio, where some of his most beloved pieces, including Cavallo, a feisty bronze horse, were created.
Resurrection on display in 2010 at the Italian American Museum
DiModica and his family spend time between New York and Sicily, where he's currently working on a monumental project called the Horses of Ippari. Rumored to be two towering stallions, the rearing horses will form an arch spanning the Ippari River near Ragusa. When completed, it is said the work will be the largest statue in Europe.
Miniature stainless steel version of Cavallo 
on display in 2010 at the Italian American Museum
DiModica, of course, is most famous for his Charging Bull, an eighteen foot long bronze behemoth, weighing almost three and a half tons. Inspired by the Stock Market crash of '87, DiModica's statue was meant to symbolize America's vitality and financial recovery. Costing $360,000 of his own money to create, the artist famously installed the statue without permission in front of the New York Stock Exchange late at night on December 15, 1989. Using a flatbed truck and a small crane, DiModica and crew secretly dropped off the statue under the giant Stock Exchange Christmas tree. I know security was more lax back then, but how they did it without being noticed is a mystery. That morning New Yorkers were greeted with a big surprise.
Tourists queue up for a photo with the iconic statue. 
Since the Occupy Wall Street disturbances, Charging Bull 
has been cordoned off and under police surveillance.
Unhappy with the "unauthorized" display on public property, the Stock Exchange had the statue impounded. On December 20th, amid public outcry for its return (and after DiModica paid the $5,000 fine) the City decided to "temporarily" move Charging Bull to the nearby Bowling Green section of Lower Manhattan (at the intersections of Broadway and Morris Street). It's been there ever since.
Stainless steel version of Charging Bull, 
on display in 2013 at Casa Belvedere, Staten Island 
Today, Charging Bull is one of the Big Apple's most recognizable tourist attractions. It diurnally attracts large crowds of onlookers from around the globe and (believe it or not) is said to draw more tourists than either the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building. Variations of the bull have since been installed in Shanghai (2010) and Amsterdam (2012).
Tourist poses behind the bull
Curiously, a big part of the statue's allure is its alleged ability to bestow luck. While taking photos, I noticed there was just as long a line at the rear of the statue as the front. People were nestling their heads between the animals cheeks while others fondled its polished privates. The spectacle reminded me a little of the festive crowds at "Juliet's House" in Verona, lining up to grope the star-crossed lover's right breast because superstition claims by doing so the statue will help them find true love.
Statue of Juliet, Verona
I know its considered good luck in some cultures, after all the ancient cuornuciello (coral horn talisman often confused for a pepper) is said to be a stylized bull's penis, but when I asked a few people why they did it they said it was just for fun. Perhaps they were too embarrassed to tell the truth or too polite to tell me to mind my own business, but whatever the reason, the Charging Bull is a testament to Arturo DiModica's genius and can-do spirit.
Charging Bull