“I was just bored on a Sunday making papier-mâché.”
The Memorial Day weekend proved more consequential than expected for New York City artist Alex Gardega, who has received a rush of media attention for responding to McCann’s famous “Fearless Girl” statue by briefly placing a sculpture of his own next to it: “Sketchy Dog,” a small canine who appeared to be urinating on the ground beside the bronze girl as she stares down her adversary, Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull.”
“In my view, that bull is a kind of New York City icon—a real piece of art that [Di Modica] put his own money and sweat and blood into,” Gardega told AdFreak while fielding calls from reporters around the world. He declined to confirm whether he intended to portray the dog urinating on the other statue, but his implication is clear: “Charging Bull” is authentic, while “Fearless Girl,” which is sponsored by Boston-based financial services company State Street Global Advisors, is not.
“Most people don’t know that ‘Fearless Girl’ is a boardroom financial fund’s decision,” Gardega continued. “It might as well be McDonald’s promoting something, but people are buying it hook line and sinker, and that upset me.”
Prior to this project, Gardega may have been best known for an ambitious attempt to create an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel on the ceiling of his Upper East Side studio in Manhattan. But this week he decided to make a statement of solidarity with Di Modica by very publicly expressing his disapproval of the project, created by sculptor Kristen Visbal and a team at McCann New York earlier this year.
Di Modica did indeed spend more than $300,000 to create “Charging Bull” as a love letter to New York and the American economy after 1989’s stock market crash. At the time, the NYPD impounded the sculpture because the Italian artist did not have permission to use the space—but public outrage led them to reinstall it several blocks away. There it remains to this day, despite the fact that the city has never officially approved its permanent presence.
Di Modica was infuriated by “Fearless Girl,” which led his lawyers to file a lawsuit claiming that the City of New York has “infringed on his own artistic copyright by changing the creative dynamic to include the other bold presence.”
Gardega echoed that claim, stating, “Her sculpture invaded the space of the bull. This is corporate fake feminism, and I’m totally pro-real feminism. That’s not what this sculpture is, and I thought I would enlighten [people].”
So he went down to Bowling Green Park at 9 a.m. on Memorial Day and placed his far lighter sculpture beside the girl. “People looked at it and petted it—and then some people got really angry, kicked it and threw it,” he said. “I got a mixed bag of reactions.” Indeed, the intensity of the response has only increased since the first reports of Gardega’s project went live. He told AdFreak, “I got a lot of hate mail, but I’m still standing by my statement.”
After several hours, Gardega removed the dog, but not before showing it to the New York Post and allowing that publication to take its own pictures. Gardega certainly got noticed, and Di Modica went so far as to tell the Post later on Tuesday that he didn’t much appreciate the extra controversy.
“I’m all for Wall Street, and I’m all for advertising,” Gardega said, noting that he has worked in ad sales in the past. “I don’t like when you pretend you’re something you’re not.”
Regarding this unexpected new round of media attention for “Fearless Girl,” a State Street rep told AdFreak, “We continue to be grateful to the countless people around the world who continue to responded so enthusiastically to what the Fearless Girl represents—the power and potential of having more women in leadership. Fearless Girl was created to stand as a reminder that having more women in leadership positions positively contributes to overall performance and strengthens our economy.”
Asked if his ultimate goal is to convince the city to move “Fearless Girl” (which currently has permission to stay through early next year), Gardega said, “I didn’t have that in mind. I had a point in mind, which I achieved, and I’m very glad. I wanted people to know the story. Nobody knew anything about it.”