Artist in the bull trap

Arturo Di Modica, a sculptor in financial difficulties, tries to sell a copy of the Wall Street bull for a million dollars. He has invested around 360,000 dollars in the slightly smaller replica. But in the midst of a booming art market, the Italian is a loser.

Anyone walking along West Broadway in New York’s trendy Soho shopping district these days suddenly thinks they’re in the financial district: on the sidewalk stands the “Raging Bull,” the world-famous bronze sculpture that actually stands near Wall Street and in front of which hundreds of tourists can be photographed every day. But then one quickly notices that the bull doesn’t completely fill the gigantic dimensions of the original. It is a two-thirds smaller replica, which the creator of the original, the Italian artist Arturo Di Modica, copied himself.

For a million dollars, anyone who is in the mood can take the statue home with them, or rather have it hoisted up with a crane. The noble restaurant “Ciprianis”, which itself acquired some works of art by the 75-year-old in distress, gladly accepts bids. The bull stands on his sidewalk. Read more about what is a bull trap here for further details.

With all the fame of the bull: Di Modica is far from well

His studio on Crosby Street in Manhattan is empty. Above the glass door, the name “Di Modica” is emblazoned in golden letters. But the bronze bull’s head on the fa├žade, which immediately revealed to visitors who they were dealing with, has been dismantled. A figurehead reveals that the studio can be rented as office space. Last year, Di Modica made headlines for suing twelve companies that allegedly violated his copyrights to the sculpture, including retailers Wal-Mart and Bank North Fork. Wal-Mart is to pay Di Modica to sell photos, prints and other images of his bull without his permission. North Fork is to be asked to pay for the bull’s use in his U.S. television commercials. In addition, the Sicilian sued several web sites that market scaled-down copies of the sculpture without permission.

The proceedings are still ongoing. Already in 2004 Di Modica tried to turn his bull into money. At that time, however, the Italian lacked any sense of proportion. He auctioned off the bull, minimum bid five million dollars. Only one casino from Las Vegas showed interest – but when it became clear that the bull still had to stand at the southern tip of Manhattan and the owner was only honored there with a plaque, it withdrew its offer.

In the midst of a booming art market, in which hedge fund managers who have become rich overnight snatch even mediocre works of art from the hands of gallery owners for a lot of money, Di Modica presents himself as a strange loser. One of his sculptures – a kind of egg made of marble and steel – is looking for a buyer on the Internet for $12,500. Not exactly a top price in the art world.

Self-taught mechanic and x-ray assistant in Florence

The Italian – who still spends most of the year in his hometown of Vittorio as a self-taught mechanic and x-ray assistant in Florence – actually has positioned himself splendidly. From 1987 he created the storming bull in his studio after many years of work. On December 15, 1989, Di Modica drove to Wall Street at dawn with 30 friends, an articulated lorry, and a hoisting crane to drop off his work in front of the steps of the New York Stock Exchange – directly under the freshly erected Christmas tree of the stock exchange.

Within five minutes, the spook was over – just in time before the guards marched past again on their patrol. Richard Grasso, then head of the stock exchange, wanted to have the bronze sculpture, weighing three and a half tons, transported away again in the afternoon. But after a public outcry, the city of New York found its place at Bowling Green – where the bull was loaned for one year by the artist and has remained ever since.

With his bloated nostrils, his head lowered to attack, and his mighty horns, he stands for the strength of Wall Street that emerges from every crash. The bull is also supposed to bring luck to stockbrokers when they rub his horns – but with Di Modica himself this probably didn’t work out. So far, the artist has only done bad things and even had to sell his land in Italy and Lake Champlain in the state of New York to raise about $36,000,000 for bronze and other material for the bull.

Di Modica wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of copying the bull

In 1990, an American businessman showed him a photograph of the Chinese port city of Ningbo. There was a deceptively genuine copy of his masterpiece. “I’m pissed off,” the Italian hissed at the time. “This bull is for the American people and New York and nobody else – except someone pays a lot of money.” To be precise: one million dollars.

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