Art has often kept questionable company. I’m not talking about needle-pocked libertines or anarchists, but the institutional enemies of hoi polloi: financiers and the Church. How many Madonna con Bambinos were eked out to feed painters during the Renaissance; how much art was farmed out by Wall Street in the ‘80s to fuel a global speculative market? Basquiat’s paintings disappeared from his atelier unfinished, while the paint was still wet.
Right around the same time, Arturo Di Modica and Reinhard Dachlauer created huge bronzes of bulls (and in Dachlauer’s case, including a bear to form a set) that now stand near Wall Street and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, respectively. Dachlauer’s pair is not extensively documented on the Internet, but Di Modica’s bull has transcended its humble beginnings as guerrilla art to become world famous.
That’s right: Di Modica dropped the unsolicited “Charging Bull” on Wall Street like a takeout flyer, and it was briefly impounded before public outcry led to its present installation. Further extending the boldness of the project, Di Modica editioned the piece into five total—and who is surprised that the second bull sold is in Shanghai?
Dachlauer’s bull seems to lead a pretty chaste life, but Di Modica’s bull has been fondled on its plumbing so many times that the oxidized patina is regularly polished away. Its resplendent equipment shines like, well, so many Gold Mansacks, which is fitting as their headquarters is nearby. The Internet is silent on whether this trite and vulgar obeisance is spared Dachlauer’s bull.
They are both fine sculptures, technically speaking. But their whole raison d’être has been subject to a crescendo of questions. As the U.S. churns through its deadbeat-dalliance debt crisis and the Eurozone shudders under the weight of its own souring obligations, I have to wonder why so many civilizations worshiped kine into their twilight—and why artists rush to serve the handmaidens of their societies’ eclipse.