Charging Bull – One Giant Christmas Present

The Charging Bull, representing a rising market, is one of the most easily recognizable symbols of Wall Street.

The Charging Bull was created by sculptor Arturo Di Modica in his Soho studio on Crosby Street. Conceived by the sculptor as an antidote for the sour mood caused by the 1987 stock market crash known as Black Monday, the Bull was to represent resilience, hope, and strength and stand directly in front of the mighty New York Stock Exchange.

The Charging Bull by Arturo Di Modica

In order to place a gigantic piece of guerilla art on New York City streets without an official city permit, Di Modica and his team had to conduct the operation in a most clandestine fashion. According to the plan, a flatbed track carrying the Bull was to arrive at night so that the sculpture could have been unloaded in front of the New York Stock Exchange in complete secrecy. The area was patrolled by police in regular intervals of five to six minutes, giving the team four-and-a-half minutes to drop the Bull at the location. Everything would have gone smoothly if it weren’t for a large Christmas tree installed the very same night right in front of NYSE. With the tree blocking the way and time being of essence, Di Modica creatively adapted to the new situation by placing the Bull under the tree as if it were a Christmas present to the city.

Imagine the excitement when New Yorkers stumbled upon this gigantic present the following morning. Crowds of enthusiastic onlookers surrounded the Bull and the media had a field day. But the police were not amused, and promptly impounded the Bull. Despite the speedy removal by authorities, the public outcry which followed convinced the city to return the Charging Bull to its public. It was then placed in its present location at Bowling Green. 

A view of Bowling Green Park Park with the Bull

The Charging Bull has become a symbol of Wall Street and a kind of talisman for Wall Street brokers, who rub the Bull’s nose for good luck on the way to the office. This tradition developed further, as described in a 2004 New York Times article: “Passers-by have rubbed—to a bright gleam—its nose, horns and a part of its anatomy that, as Mr. Benepe put it gingerly, ‘separates the bull from the steer.’”

Although the Charging Bull is now one of New York City’s most visited attractions, the city never bought it. For this reason it’s technically still a temporary exhibit! Sitting in its location since 1989, it is probably the longest temporary exhibit ever. Since the Bull has never gone through the Public Design Commission’s approval process for permanent works as required by the City Charter, the city has no contract or formal ownership of the monument and subsequently bears no responsibility for upkeep or repairs of the statue.

Representing the mighty institution of Wall Street, the Charging Bull has been known to provoke righteous fury. The latest incident (2019) involved a Texas man who attacked the Bull with an imitation metal banjo, leaving the beast with a gash under its right horn. Since the city does not own the statue and has no responsibility for its upkeep, Di Modica himself flew to New York from Sicily to administer the repairs.

Representing financial might, the Bull weighs over three-and-a-half tons. Perhaps the fact that the Bull’s skin is less than an inch thick represents the market’s vulnerability….

  • Location: Beginning of Broadway, in front of Bowling Green Park
  • Built: 1987
  • Sculptor: Arturo Di Modica
  • Weight: 7,000 pounds 
  • Cost: $360,000

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