x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Wall Street bull sculptor eyes greener grasses in the UAE

Arturo Di Modica is in the Emirates to scout a location to feature one of his giant bull sculptures.

Arturo Di Modica’s Wall Street Bull in Bowling Green Park, New York. Ben Hider / Getty Images
Arturo Di Modica’s Wall Street Bull in Bowling Green Park, New York. Ben Hider / Getty Images

Forget the Wolf of Wall Street: the only embodiment of financial vigour and bullish self-belief that has stood the test of time happens to have horns.

Arturo Di Modica's 3,200-kilogram bronze sculpture of a charging bull has encapsulated the world's financial hub from a spot in New York City's Bowling Green Park since it was donated by the Sicilian artist in 1987.

Di Modica, who created the smaller, silver version that sits outside his friend Giuseppi Cipriani's Abu Dhabi restaurant, Cipriani Yas Island, now wants to place a Wall Street-sized version somewhere in the UAE. It would be his third such project, adding to another bull sculpture erected in Shanghai in 2010.

The artist spent the past few days in the Emirates negotiating for possible locations in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. When he left yesterday, it was with a vision for a potential spot at Dubai International Financial Centre.

"If I could site a bull in the Emirates, the triangle for peace in the world will be complete," he says. "I tell people; the bull is not fighting - it represents a stronger economy and consequently a better world for young people in the future."

Di Modica talks about these charging bulls in an almost talismanic way: goodwill emblems and symbols of mounting prosperity in the countries that he places them in. The Shanghai bull attracts thousands of visitors a day, many of whom continue a tradition of stroking its bulk for good luck.

"I've been coming to Dubai for three years and I see the need for some energy to finish the place," he says, referring to the remaining buildings in-construction around town. "I believe it will be a centre for the arts in the next five to 10 years."

The proposed bull for the UAE is due to be finished in the autumn and, according to Di Modica, features "outstretched front legs, a stronger tail and larger back muscle than the others. The face of the bull is laughing a little bit, while the surface has a sand-coloured patina". The Charging Bull of Wall Street is now one of New York's most distinguishable pieces of public art. Yet when he first gave the object to the city in the late 1980s, Di Modica undertook a famously guerrilla act of generosity.

Rather than the conventional bureaucracy of applying for planning, he wanted to site the piece on Broad Street in an act of "protest" – a response to the dire state of the US economy at that time. Funding its US$350,000 (Dh1.3 million) construction himself, Di Modica meticulously researched the time he would have to install the piece out of sight of the authorities. But on the night of the drop-off, a Christmas tree had been installed on Broad Street, and the artist decided to leave it there anyway – "a gift to the American people", he said.

The next morning, the authorities removed and impounded Di Modica's bull and, after a protracted legal tussle, it was moved to Bowling Green Park, where it has remained since. Recently, the sculpture has appeared on posters for the Occupy Movement in New York, featuring a ballerina pirouetting on its muscular back. The artist has recently sold the work to an art collector on the agreement that the piece stays where it is.

Today, Di Modica relies on commissions for these public sculptures. "But I don't wait for commission work," he says. "I can be working on six pieces at any one time."

clord@thenational.ae