AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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FEARLESS GIRL ON THE MOVE?

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Latest development in the Fearless Girl case, brought to you only three weeks late courtesy of yrs truly and the end of the semester: the city wants the girl moved, citing traffic and safety concerns.

I can’t imagine that any one was surprised by this decision, given the statue’s story as an advertisement playing opposite an iconic piece of guerilla art. It was unlikely that it would stay forever. And at 250 pounds, it hardly presents the obstacle to removal that Charging Bull did; it’s a much easier call.

But the city is now planning to move the bull, too. It might be moved back to where it originally had been placed, right in front of the stock exchange. All good, right?

Now here’s where things get a little weird. DiModica, the artist who created Charging Bull, is suing the city, arguing that it does not own the bull, and therefore has no right to move it. And if the press coverage is accurate, the problem isn’t just that they’re moving the bull back to the original location, but that it’s being moved with the statue of the girl.

The girl, Di Modica has argued, alters the meaning of the bull. He intended it as a symbol of hope; it’s been taken more broadly as a symbol of New York and capitalism. But what he says he never wanted was for the bull to be a bully, and when it’s set to trample a tiny girl, that’s exactly what it looks like. And here, I think he’s right; the meaning of the bull won’t long survive the experience of crowds, treating it as a symbol of feminism and forgetting, after a while, that she wasn’t always there.

But I’m not sure that he’s right to think that the city doesn’t have the right to move it. It was an act of guerilla art, and it’s been so successful for no reason except public acclaim, and it’s evolved into an icon that he surely couldn’t have anticipated. More to the point, if it’s street art—and he’s adamant that it doesn’t belong to the city—then it seems that it has to live in that liminal space, not quite legal, not illegal. Part of its lifecycle requires accepting that the city might not always want it, and that its meaning hasn’t been in his control since that night in December.

Image credit: photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr