Arturo Di Modica, the Italian-American artist who set his bronze “Charging Bull” at the front of the New York Stock Exchange in 1989, says his fresh version is modeled for China: “It must be strong. It’s about a strong nation,” he says.
[cbull_new] Arturo Di Modica
BROTHER BULLS: Arturo Di Modica’s bull made for Shanghai, top, is ‘exactly’ the same length, height and weight as his New York one, below, but with a slightly different bent and more-menacing tail.
[cbull_old] Xinhua/Zuma Press
Bright-eyed, leaning to the right instead of the left and reddish compared with the original—”the color of China,” Mr. Di Modica says—the Shanghai bull’s tail appears more menacing, corkscrewing upward.
The artist claims the bronze bull for Shanghai’s historic Bund is “exactly” the same length, height and weight at 2.5 short tons, or 5,000 pounds. In response to questions whether he was asked to make a larger version of the original, he said he has no interest in stoking municipal rivalries.
“It’s not to create some kind of financial fight between Shanghai and New York,” he said.
Wall Street’s stumble in 2008 prompted a competitive response from China: a central government plan to transform Shanghai into a recognized international financial center by 2020. Financial-industry regulators swooped into New York to scout for laid-off Wall Street executives, and Shanghai loosened rules to attract foreign investment banks and private-equity firms.Even as Washington blamed Wall Street derivatives for destabilizing Main Street, Beijing permitted Shanghai to launch new ones.
“We intend to build a financial center that will serve the real economy,” says Fang Xinghai, director general of financial services for Shanghai’s government. “The bull on the Bund symbolizes that effort.”
As the crisis unfolded, Mr. Di Modica says he was invited to visit Shanghai for the first time and commissioned to make a new bull for a price he won’t disclose.
Only the second of Mr. Di Modica’s bulls to go on public display, Shanghai’s bull was to be installed before the Year of the Ox ended in February but will now be dedicated around the time of the World Expo’s opening on May 1, in the Year of the Tiger.
Crafted by a team of 40 in Wyoming, the bull will stand on a newly built financial square that includes a four-faced screen of stock prices opposite the strip of iconic buildings known as Shanghai’s Bund. In the 1930s, the neoclassical buildings were headquarters of Asia’s most powerful banks; today they are mostly boutiques, restaurants and hotels.
Mr. Di Modica famously dropped his bull unannounced at the front of the New York Stock Exchange during the night of Dec. 15, 1989, describing his work as a hopeful response to the market crash two years earlier. Mr. Di Modica spent $350,000 of his own money on the project.
James Areddy in Shanghai discusses a new symbol of China’s market ambitions: its own bull sculpture for its Shanghai stock exchange, similar to the one in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
The bull was later moved nearby to Bowling Green Park, where it seemingly charges up Broadway and where New York City tour operators describe it as one of the city’s most visited sites, if only because it is so accessible. “It’s particularly popular with the Oriental tourists,” says Esther Roth, a general manager of sightseeing group AlliedTPro.
To bring luck to their investments, visitors now rub a part of the bull’s anatomy.
As with the Shanghai version, Mr. Di Modica made an artist proof and five additions for his first bull, which today are viewed privately on a Florida golf course and in a Polish collector’s home.
The artist’s dream to install a “brotherhood” of bulls in London, Moscow and elsewhere around the world hasn’t materialized, despite an enthusiastic public-relations effort from one supporter who likened the bull to universal symbols such as the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.
Mr. Di Modica says the Wall street bull has been lucky for Wall Street, playing down the financial industry’s 2008 collapse. Among the casualties was bull-branded Merrill Lynch, which was near bankruptcy when Bank of America Corp. bought it and temporarily retired the iconic bull logo.But on a long-term horizon, Mr. Di Modica argues, his artworkhas underpinned stock prices. When it first appeared on Broad Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 2739.55. (On Monday, the index closed at 11092.05.) “From the next day, it started to go up,” Mr. Di Modico says.
The financial crisis, however, was hard on Mr. Di Modica’s own investment portfolio: “I lost a lot,” he says.