The Epic History of the Wall Street Bull
By Lucas Compan
It was one of the coldest months on record. It was a very dark morning. December 15, 1989 at 1 a.m.: the date and time when the a huge 7,100 lb. (3,200 kg) bronze sculpture – created by Arturo Di Modica and his friends – was installed in front of the New York Stock Exchange. They were doing something illegal, though.
Arturo Di Modica, the Italian-American sculptor first conceived the Charging Bull as a way to celebrate the can-do spirit of America – and especially New York, where people from all other the world could come regardless of their origin or circumstances, and through determination and hard work, overcome every obstacle to become successful. It’s this symbol of virility and courage that Arturo saw as the perfect antidote to the Wall Street crash of 1987.
Arturo was born in Sicilia, Italy in 1941, and moved to Florence in 1960 where he opened his first studio. In 1973 the artist moved to New York and rented a studio in SoHo on Grand Street. Later he built his own studio on 54 Crosby Street in the Soho district of Manhattan. It was his most ambitious and massive work of sculpture to date, so large that the Bull had to be cast in separate bronze pieces and then laboriously welded together and hand finished. Once completed, at the end of 1989, it weighed over three and a half tons, and measured 18 feet long (5.5 meters).
The 'Charging Bull' was the third - and at last successful - attempt of the artist to install his own statues on New York streets without permit. In 1977, he dropped several marble statues in front of Rockefeller Center. The second time, in February 1986, he put a big bronze horse in front of Lincoln Center. "It was a Valentine's gift to all the people in New York who are in love," he said. In 1999, Arturo Di Modica was selected for one of the most prestigious annual awards given in the United States: the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
The sculptor spent US$360,000 of his own money, and over two years of work, to create and weld together the final pieces of the slick, powerful-looking bull. It was designed to be a Christmas gift to the city.
The dropping of the bull on Wall Street needed to be done when the police was not there. To place the sculpture in a public area, he needed a permit. Since he didn't have a permit, the installation would be considered illegal.
On December 14, 1989, Arturo visited the location and check the police patrol time intervals. He had a little bit more than four minutes to drop two and a half years his work.
When the artist and his crew arrive on that cold and dark morning of December 15, they saw a Christmas tree installed on the place they chose for the bull. Then, they decided to place the statue on the yellow center line of Broad Street, outside the exchange, facing Wall Street right under the tree. That would be the perfect spot, since the original plan was dropping the bull as a Christmas present to New York.
The Italian-American sculptor (born and raised in Sicilia) first conceived the Charging Bull as a way to celebrate the can-do spirit of America – and especially New York, where people from all other the world could come regardless of their origin or circumstances, and through determination and hard work overcome every obstacle to become successful.
The next day the Charging Bull was news all around the world, and enormous crowds of excited onlookers and media surrounded the mysterious sculpture that had come from no one knew where.
The next morning's New York Post, displayed a photo of the bull being carted away, reading: 'Bah, Humbug!' 'N.Y. Stock Exchange grinches can't bear Christmas-gift bull.'
The New York Times :
"Daylight brought crowds, and hundreds stopped to admire and analyze the bull, which was charging under the branches of a 60-foot Christmas tree, also set in the middle of Broad Street. Mr. Di Modica handed out copies of ''The Bull,'' a paean-in-a-flier to his work.
Security officials at the exchange were calling the police. ''In effect, they told us there was a very large statue of a bull there, and it wasn't there yesterday, and to the best of their knowledge shouldn't be there,'' said Officer Joseph Gallagher, a police spokesman."
The executives at the New York Stock Exchange were not nearly so amused. Perhaps mistaking the bull for some sort of Trojan horse. Though there were no Athenian soldiers lurking inside, ready to jump out and spear the Masters of the Universe, apparently NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso didn’t want to take his chances, Di Modica recalls.
The police were called in, and, when they proved unwilling or ill-equipped to run an 18-foot-long bull out of town, the exchange hired private contractors to remove him. The beast was hauled off to Queens.
Lower Manhattan businessman, Arthur Piccolo of the Bowling Green Association, read the article about the transfer. He found Mr. Di Modica in the phone book. They spoke and met later that Saturday to survey the space at Bowling Green Park, a few blocks from the NYSE, as the future home of the bull.
Following Mr. Piccolo, he reached out to Henry Stern, the NY Parks Commissioner, who in turn contacted the, then mayor of New York, Edward Koch. Mayor Koch said YES immediately.
The NYSE refused to release the bull from storage until the artist Arturo Di Modica paid for all their storage cost and expenses to remove the bull.
Di Modica and his team of artists working in his studio
NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern arranged for the return of “Charging Bull” to Bowling Green on the morning of December 20, 1989.
“Charging Bull” became an immediate phenomenon drawing huge crowds day after day year round.
Di Modica was determined to bring it back to Manhattan. So he spoke to the Richard Grasso, then president and chief operating officer at the NYSE, who said the bull could return only if it a bear was made to sit alongside it.
'He wanted me to make a bear, too,' the artist said.
'I told him I was not going to do that - the bear means the market goes down, but I wanted to represent the city getting bigger, stronger, faster,' tells Di Modica.
Di Modica paid for the bull to be brought back to Manhattan.
His website states: 'Thanks to then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Mayor Ed Koch and Arturo Piccolo of the Bowling Green Association, a permanent home was found for the Charging Bull close by at Bowling Green. 'The Charging Bull stands there to this day, visited by millions of tourists, a talisman for Wall Street traders, and a source of pride for all New York City residents.'
It now attracts tourists posing for photographs and investors superstitiously rubbing its horns for good luck. The bull is now seen as a symbolic mascot for New Yorkers and for the world.
"People on the streets of New York say you've got to rub the nose, horns and testicles of the bull for good luck," Piccola New Yorker Special Tours' Italian personal travel planner Agostina Cois, would tell the group of Italian tourists from Rome, who would giddily oblige.
A short observational film about the tourist at the Charging Bull Statue in Manhattan. Special Thanks to the New York City Downtown Alliance, The City of New York, its people and its visitors. Produced at the New York Film Academy as part of the February 2015, 6 Week Documentary Workshop. ©2015 Daniel Bañuelos
Thanks to then Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, Mayor Ed Koch and Arturo Piccolo of the Bowling Green Association, a permanent home was found for the Charging Bull close by at Bowling Green. 'The Charging Bull stands there to this day, visited by millions of tourists, a talisman for Wall Street traders, and a source of pride for all New York City residents
At the Bowling Green, the bull has remained for 27 years, through bullish and bearish times alike. He has witnessed the drop in crime, the rise in real-estate prices and the election of a billionaire mayor. He has also stood firm through the dot-com bust, two terrorist attacks—Sept. 11 left him covered in a thick layer of soot—the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. It was even temporarily barricaded to protect it from Occupy Wall Street in 2011.
Arturo Di Modica has likely recouped the expense of building the bull several times over in the past 27 years, having cast sibling bulls for cities around the world (Shanghai, 2010; Amsterdam, 2012; Abu Dhabi, 2013; Stamford, 2015; Dubai, 2016), and having sold many smaller versions to collectors. There is also a smaller, silver version of the bull that sits outside his friend Guiseppi Cipriani's Abu Dhabi restaurant, Cipriani Yas Island.
The Cipriani’s are collectors of Arturo’s artwork, and even gotten the artist to design two of their restaurants: Cipriani Dolci at Grand Central Terminal and Cipriani Downtown, both in New York City.
Whenever the market is down, people stop him on the streets and ask:
– “Why isn’t the bull working?” he said
– “The Bull is resting, he’s tired, but he’ll get back to it soon,” answers Di Modica
Ironically, the bull that once was considered an illegal installation, now is officially protected by the Government. Watch the story:
Click on the image below to see the live stream webcam
“Fearless Girl” the bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal (seen in this image), commissioned by State Street Global Advisors via McCann New York, formerly depicted a girl facing the Charging Bull statue. The statue was removed on November 28, 2018 and will be relocated to a spot in front of the New York Stock Exchange – between Broadway & Whitehall St.
Find your way to the Wall Street Bull
More epic stories
- art 35
- brooklyn 30
- carousel 3
- culture 35
- filmmaking 69
- food 17
- history 57
- holidays 15
- italy 14
- kids 32
- kids1 31
- landmarks 63
- lists 72
- manhattan 51
- new york 138
- parks 3
- personal stories 29
- photography 73
- queens 22
- sculpture 3
- staten island 9
- summer 5
- the bronx 4
- things to do 78
- top secrets 67
- tours 101
- train 2
- agostina cois
- central park
- decades tour
- food tours
- grand central terminal
- intriguing new york series
- lucas compan
- new york city
- personal stories
- piccola new yorker
- stories of new york
- things to do
- top secrets