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Aug. 4 2009 - 12:07 am | 110 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Sculptor of Famous Wall Street Bull Sculpture Sues Random House

image via Amazon.com

image via Amazon.com

I try to focus on art and literature on this blog (I wander from time to time), but often this means writing one blog post about art, one blog post about literature and so on. It is rare that I come across a news event in which the two come together in equal parts and belong in the same post. Such is the case with the recent news that artist Arturo di Modica has filed suit against publishing behemoth Random House for illegal use of an image of his famous lower Manhattan bull sculpture on a recently published book.

The image of the 7,000 pound bull, which has been on loan to the city for 17 years, was depicted on the cover of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers by Lawrence McDonald and Patrick Robinson. The book published in July 2009.

This is also not the first time di Modica has sued over illegally reproduced use of his famous sculpture. In 2006 he sued Wal-Mart, Northfork Bankcorp, and several other companies for profiting from the sculpture, which the artist copyrighted in 1998. From a Sept. 21, 2006 Bloomberg article:

Arturo Di Modica claimed the companies are selling knockoff copies of his sculpture or using images of the famous statue in ad campaigns without his permission, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court.

‘Wal-Mart is knowingly and willfully selling and marketing direct copies of plaintiff’s subject work to the public,’ Di Modica said in his suit, adding that he ‘has lost and will continue to lose substantial revenues.’

The bull sculpture sits in Bowling Green plaza, a symbol of economic vitality and aggression, but it was not a city-commissioned work. Rather, it was installed as an act of guerrilla art after the 1987 stock market crash. Di Modica pulled a truck up in the middle of the night and placed the bronze bull in front of the Stock Exchange. He had invested 360,000 dollars of his own money in the work and considered it a Christmas gift to the people of New York. The bull was soon removed, but the public outcry was so severe that it was brought back and installed at its current location.

The irony behind this, of course, is if Random House loses the lawsuit, the title of the book (A Colossal Failure of Common Sense) will have a deeply regretful double meaning.

via Artist Sues Random House Over Bull Image – ARTINFO.com.


One T/S Member Comment Called Out, 3 Total Comments
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  1. collapse expand

    while it is a public “figure” its not publically owned so i reckon if he wants it is still HIS property. if someone took a picture of you or your house and put it in a bestseller cover you might be a little pissed too. He should have the right to say “hey i dont want my sculpture associated with this book” the same way someone could ask Mccain not to play their song at a rally.

    but all of that aside- he had $360k to make a piece of art in 1987? good for that guy!

    • collapse expand

      I agree. This is his sculpture. Of di Modica put a copyright on the bull in 1998, he has the right to it and any images of it used for profit. Random House made a mistake here in not clearing the image. That is the first thing you do in publishing a book, to check who owns rights to images and clear them. It would not have been difficult for them to figure out who owned the rights.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    I am a Brooklyn-based writer and editor covering arts and culture. I was an editor at Art & Antiques magazine, an editor at Picador USA, and an editor for a magazine about coffee and tea. On the best of days, I get to write about art, or work on fiction. My writing can be found on the Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and in Art & Antiques, Art in America, Tin House, Willamette Week, San Francisco magazine, Food Network Magazine, and Fresh Cup magazine. I also write about and promote the arts for Columbia University in New York.

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    Contributor Since: May 2009

    What I'm Up To

    An essay on the painter Robert Vickrey for The Rumpus.