Just before Christmas in 1989, Arturo di Modica, a Sicilian artist living in New York City, recruited a few friends, loaded his sculpture, “Charging Bull,” a 7,000-pound, 16-foot-long bronze bull, onto a flatbed truck. They transported it from his studio to Wall Street and deposited it, without permission, in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The sculpture was swiftly removed by the city the next day, but due to public outcry it was reinstalled at a location nearby, where it has since become a neighborhood landmark (and judging by its prominence on Flickr, a popular tourist attraction).
Charging Bull Quick Facts
- Total cost to create was $360,000 USD
- Piece is on loan to NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation
- Di Modica anounced in 2004 the Bull is for sale
- A similar bull sculpture is present in Shanghai (also created by Di Modica)
The bull’s renegade history resurfaced this past Christmas Eve, when an artist named Olek encased the sculpture in a hot pink, purple and green camouflage pattern that she crocheted between the cold hours of 2 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Although the work was destroyed by the park’s caretaker two hours after its completion—Olek had left for a cup of tea—photographs of cozy bull had already begun to spread on the Internet.
“On Monday night, it just exploded,” Olek said when I spoke to her on the phone a few days after Christmas. “It appeared in the financial papers in Europe.”
Olek, whose full name is Agata Oleksiak, said she came up with the idea for the bull after learning about the sculpture at Workspace, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, where she has an artist residency.
Di Modica created the bull in response to the stock market crash of 1987, Olek explained. Her addition, she says refers to the current economic situation. “This crocheted cover represents my best wishes to all of us,” she says on her website. “It will be a great, prosperous year with many wonderful surprises!”
She had pre-made pieces for the horns and the tail, and a giant swath for the main part of the bull’s body, and connected the pieces on Christmas Eve. During the night, she encountered tourists, private security guards and eventually the New York Police Department. “I said that it was a gift to New York City. If it’s a problem I can take it down,” she recalled. “The police said, ‘Well, it’s not graffiti because it can be removed easily.’ They just took down my name and number.”
When you do something like this, you expect the worst. There is always the chance that the police will stop you.
“It was very sad to see the piece destroyed,” she continued. “When you do something like this, you expect the worst. There is always the chance that the police will stop you.”
Olek is now in the midst of preparing for an exhibition, “Knitting is for Pus****,” which opens at the Christopher Henry Gallery in the Lower East Side on January 5. Because some of the pieces used for the bull were pulled from existing works, Olek is busy crocheting to meet her deadline. Whatever pieces were left from the bull will also be displayed.
Follow Richard S. Chang on Twitter: @r_s_c
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