It’s really hard to think of a more effective use of art as propaganda than the “Fearless Girl” sculpture in New York, which is being moved to the New York Stock Exchange.
Fawning press coverage will have you believe this thing is a symbol of female empowerment, as it was set facing the “Charging Bull” sculpture that came to represent everything that is wrong about Wall Street and the financial world. This is what they’ve looked like for a while now:
But consider the following facts:
-The “Charging Bull” sculpture was cast by Arturo di Modica, a then-46 years old Sicilian immigrant, as a gift to the city following the 1987 stock-market crash; as Matt Levine wrote for Bloomberg News in March 2017, Di Modica thought the 7,100-pound symbol of virility would be an antidote to New York’s flaccid economy. He spent $350,000 of his own money and then dropped the bull right in front of the New York Stock Exchange (without permission) in December 1989.
-Di Modica does not like the “Fearless Girl” sculpture that is now facing down his bull: “That is not a symbol! That’s an advertising trick,” the 76-year-old Sicilian immigrant said in an interview with Marketwatch.
-“Fearless Girl” was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, a custody bank, as part of a gender-diversity initiative for International Women’s Day, as well as a marketing drive for a female mutual fund. Again, citing Levine:
“There is something pleasing about the fact that the Charging Bull, a global symbol of rapacious financial capitalism, is a piece of guerrilla art installed without payment or permission — while the Fearless Girl, an egalitarian symbol meant to challenge the bull’s soulless greed, is a piece of corporate advertising commissioned by an asset-management company.”
-The marketing and media exposure for State Street from installing the sculpture is worth $7.4 million, according to the estimates of Eric Smallwood of Apex Marketing, which measures the value of media placement and sponsorships. State Street spent just $26 million on advertising in all of 2016, according to Kantar Media, which tracks advertising spending, Bloomberg reported in an April 28, 2017, story.
-State Street originally wanted to commission the bronze sculpture in the shape of a cow, according to an email exchange between the company’s rep and City Hall obtained by The New York Post in June 2017.
-State Street on Oct. 2017 agreed to settle U.S. allegations that it discriminated against hundreds of female executives by paying them less than male colleagues. The custody bank paid $5 million to more than 300 women, following a U.S. Department of Labor audit that uncovered the alleged discrepancies, according to the settlement agreement.