After State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou held a rally and led fellow-female elected officials in co-signing a letter demanding that the City find a way to keep the “Fearless Girl” statue at Bowling Green, the sculpture has been given a one-year reprieve. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer hosted a joint announcement alongside the statue on Monday afternoon, at which the Mayor said, “I’m very happy to announce that our City Department of Transportation, and our Art Commission, took a vote and have agreed to extend the presence of the ‘Fearless Girl,’ and she will be here all the way to next International Women’s Day,” in February, 2018. (It was originally slated for removal this weekend.)
The statue appeared at the foot of Broadway on March 8, in a bid by State Street Global Advisors (a Boston-based asset-management firm that is the world’s third largest) to make a statement for International Women’s Day, on March 8, juxtaposed in front of “Charging Bull,” the famous Arturo Di Modica sculpture that has been snarling and pawing the ground just north of Bowling Green since 1989. Although City officials had quietly okayed the surprise placement of the sculpture, they initially signed off on a permit that would allow it to remain only for a month.
“Sometimes a work of art captures the moment in history, and that’s what’s happened here,” the Mayor continued yesterday. “This small-but-powerful statue has really encapsulated the views and the feelings of so many people. This statue has crystallized this moment in history and has given a message of power and personal empowerment to women and girls.”
The bronze casting of “Fearless Girl” was created by Delaware sculptor Kristen Visbal, who was commissioned by the McCann New York advertising agency, on behalf of State Street. Ms. Visbal said of her piece, “the point was to interject the female in a permanent medium into what has been seen largely as a masculine environment. The bull itself has also been seen as male. Bronze, as the most permanent medium for art, symbolizes the perpetuity of women in the work place and demands the need for gender diversity in the work place be addressed.” The statue was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors — a Boston-based asset-management firm that is the world’s third largest — that wanted to make a statement for International Women’s Day about the need for more female representation on the boards of large corporations, and among the ranks of senior executives.
When the City’s decision was announced, Ms. Niou responded, “‘Fearless Girl’ has inspired a discussion around female empowerment and the need for more women in leadership roles, and I am thrilled that she will remain in my district in Lower Manhattan past April. We rallied as a community, signed petitions, and wrote letters to make sure ‘Fearless Girl’ stood firm at her current location. I welcome the longer-term placement of the art exhibit, and I want to thank those who rallied with me to push for longer-term placement of ‘Fearless Girl,’ including the over fifty female elected officials who signed my letter supporting the exhibit.”
At Monday’s announcement, Ms. Brewer said, “this girl young, taking on the bull symbolically, says to Wall Street that we need more diversification on the boards of companies. The artist did this as a girl and not as a woman because she wanted to show inspiration: that it’s possible to be on these boards, it’s possible to take on the bull, and it’s possible to do it in a way that’s not confrontational — which is how I might do it — but is instead inspirational.”
Referring to a raft of recent research documenting the underrepresentation of women on corporate boards, Ms. Brewer added, “we can issue all the reports we want, but they will not have the symbolic power that this sculpture does.”
One interested party who has some reservations about the decision is Mr. Di Modica, who secretly created the “Charging Bull” bronze in 1989, in the wake of a major financial crash, and then stealthily deposited the piece in front of the New York Stock Exchange in the dead of night. (A few months later, it was moved to its present location, several blocks away, at Bowling Green.) Mr. Di Modica described himself as, “frustrated” that neither of the companies involved in the creation of “Fearless Girl” and no agency of City government contacted him before the new statue was placed in front of “Charging Bull.”
“‘Fearless Girl’ without ‘Charging Bull’ is not fearless at all, but simply a statue of a young girl standing silent, looking at nothing in particular, which would draw modest — if any — attention,” Mr. Di Modica said. “But with ‘Charging Bull’ facing her, she is transformed into a young warrior and truly becomes the ‘Fearless Girl’ and a powerful advocate for equality and inclusiveness, along with ‘Charging Bull.'”