Art Challenging Art

Hey all,

Just read an interesting post about the recent addition to New York’s financial district- “Fearless Girl“. Wanted to share and see what your thoughts might be!

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Fearless Girl, Kristen Visbal. Plaque states “Know the Power of Women in Leadership. SHE makes a difference”

“Fearless Girl” was debuted by State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) on the eve of International Women’s Day (March 8th), and is meant to call for Gender Diversity in senior leadership. SSGA manages the SHE Index, which enables investors to support companies with greater levels of Gender Diversity in leadership, influence and impact. “Fearless Girl” was cast by artist Kristen Visbal. At first glance, the little girl appears to be bravely standing in the path of the “Charging Bull“, another famous statue in New York. She is an inspiring symbol which has gained much praise by gender equality enthusiasts but has also gained criticism as an exploitation of feminist principles, and as a PR stunt for corporate interests. Without getting into the nitty gritty of those arguments, I wanted to write about another argument against her.

The sculptor of “Charging Bull”, Arturo Di Modica, claims “Fearless Girl” has altered the artistic integrity of his own statue. “Charging Bull” was originally constructed as a representation of the resilience of the American People after the market crash of 1987. As the article states, the bull now appears menacing and frightening when facing down the brave little girl.

So, can a piece of art change another piece of art? Or is it just our perception of the original piece which has changed?

From my own perspective, it is important to continually challenge the symbolism of art as the world changes. Art after all, isn’t really anything without context. Since 1987, a lot has happened in America. The bull has seen not only the smaller recoveries and failures of the market, but has also seen the crash of 2008 and the global implications of greed and corruption on Wall Street.  It could be argued that along with a host of other American values, the resilience which the bull originally represented has become distorted itself in American society, perhaps now representing avarice and destructive ambition. The bull has also seen the advances and failures in gender equality through the last 30 years. Equal representation, pay, and treatment have returned to the forefront of gender relations, and even “Fearless Girl” herself has been the victim of crude jokes and harassment in the short month she has been installed. Imagine what she might face over her entire career as a woman in the corporate world (or any other world for that matter).

So, has the bull in this context been unmasked as a symbol of egoism, patriarchy and corrosive masculinity? Is the bull’s integrity too fragile to stand on its own in the face of a little girl? Have the courage and American values the bull represents been compromised by the girl’s own pursuit of success? Or, are the two statues independent of each other, representative of their own time and place in the world? Have they combined to make a new piece of art?

This brings up a potentially great discussion, regarding not only these statues but many other works. How might this apply to other famous pieces- are there representations elsewhere which need to be challenged, and brought into modern times? How do you respect the original artistic principle of a historical piece- and should you?

I’d love to get into this with someone (maybe over a nice pint). Until then however, stand strong “Fearless Girl”!

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