April 21, 2017

"Every sculpture needs space. That is the nature of sculpture. If you put something else there, it changes it."

"Fearless Girl" is “cute,” but “you don’t stand up for women’s rights at the expense of the artist’s rights. Each right is equally important. I am saying this as a woman.”

Said Gabriel Koren, an artist who made a statue of Frederick Douglass that is situated in Central Park, looking into Harlem. What if a second statute — a figure reacting to Frederick Douglass — were put close to it? Should Koren have final say about whether the second statue can be there? I'd say no, but I think she has moral power to influence the decision, and I think that would be enough to preserve the space around Frederick Douglas.

But that's in part because it's Frederick Douglass...



.... not a charging bull. There's a debate to be had about whether things should be put near other things, but the first thing to go up shouldn't become a tyrant. Sometimes putting things together makes a dialogue that benefits the people, who, after all, have our space cluttered by all sorts of art and art-like junk. And sometimes the first thing that goes up is kind of bad or an incomplete statement, and continuing the "conversation" with something else is an improvement.

Considering the urge to take down statues that don't say what the public wants said, we ought to keep open the option of putting up another sculpture nearby and changing the meaning. For example, in New Orleans:
Statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are targeted for removal in New Orleans, after a federal appeals court approved the city's plan to change how it treats symbols of its history. Opponents of the move vow to keep fighting it in court....

In addition to the statue of Lee, [Mayor Mitch] Landrieu and other city officials want to take down a statue honoring Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and a monument to the paramilitary White League, which launched a Reconstruction-era rebellion against the integrated Metropolitan New Orleans Police Force....

50 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

Statues proving the past is not set in stone.

I am Laslo.

sean said...

What I thought was funny is that the same people who wanted Calhoun College (at Yale) renamed, and who presumably would be all in favor of removing statues of Davis and Lee, were so outraged that the Hungarians took down a statue of Georg Lukacs. I say, the world belongs to its current inhabitants, who are entitled to have whatever statues (and names of colleges) they want.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...Considering the urge to take down statues that don't say what the public wants said, we ought to keep open the option of putting up another sculpture nearby and changing the meaning.

...for certain values of "the public."

CJinPA said...

Art debates aside...A nation that can't agree on its its history, let alone its present or future or even its statuary, is not healthy. We're running a constant fever, always with the sweats.

CJinPA said...

The question is when, not if, they take a crowbar to George Washington, owner of slaves. There are a lot of urban schools named George Washington Elementary. That can't last.

Scott M said...

I am saying this as a woman.

...implying her opinion holds more weight than that of a man or, indeed, an male artist.

wendybar said...

Liberals just want to ruin everything... STOP taking down History. and STOP altering things. In context, Fearless Girl is seconds away from being DEAD girl...

holdfast said...

"Fearless Girl" should be renamed "Stupid Girl (about to get gored)". Physically impossible wishes don't come true just repeating them often enough.

It's like saying that a 5'5" female can be a good infantry officer. No she can't, and attempting to bend the laws of physics will, at best get her injured, and at worst get a bunch of people killed.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

I like the idea of statues that tell one side of a story being changed mainly by the addition of other elements, telling other stories. One of the worst things about today's progressives is that they can't imagine people as decent and intelligent as themselves having ever defended very different social arrangements. Put Jeff Davis and the others in context: slavery, and a Southern economy very different from the Northern one. What were the slavocrats thinking? Did they expect slavery to last forever in a democratic modern country? In his Hamilton book, Chernow says Jefferson and Madison predicted that if slavery were allowed to extend into all the new Western territory, it would somehow gradually die out. This implied Lincoln was wrong to draw a line, the terrible Civil War was unnecessary, etc. Why not add a Lincoln statue, with some explanation, or a Frederick Douglass statue, in Southern cities?
Schools named after Washington,etc.: there must be a way to tell a story without simply scrubbing all the names we don't like.

Bob Boyd said...

As a work of art, 'Fearless Girl' is mostly Bull.

Unknown said...

Well, everyone celebrated when the statues of Lenin and Stalin came down in St. Petersburg.

I propose we replace General Lee with a statue of Stalin, with a plaque saying 'We've replaced one Democrat party hero with this current Democrat party hero. A mass murderer, brutal dictator, Stalin represents what the Democrat party stands for and wishes to impose on America."

It would be accurate.

--Vance

HoodlumDoodlum said...
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HoodlumDoodlum said...
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Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think we should just spray paint them all with ever changing graffiti.

Dress them up in seasonal and holiday appropriate costumes**

I once had the opportunity to buy a very very large replica statue of Michelangelo's David. About 18 feet tall. It came from a defunct Italian restaurant. I wanted to put it in the front of the property so that it could be seen from the road. I could dress him up for Christmas in a elf themed costume or a Santa's hat.... St Patrick's Day....Easter bunny ears and various baskets etc etc. He could carry signs on a stick in his left hand and change them like a Burma Shave jingle.

Probably would need to have various themed loin cloths or other pants to not offend the Church Ladies. The possibilities were endless. My husband said No and EFF NO!!!

Bummer.

chickelit said...

I agree -- a statue of Barack Obama next to the Douglas one would be tacky and in poor taste. Let's not let it happen.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

I'm confused. How exactly does "Fearless Girl" symbolize Women's rights? Little girls aren't afraid of the stock market? Little girls are good at stopping rampaging livestock? I just don't get it.

campy said...

...implying her opinion holds more weight than that of a man

Is there any doubt about that?

exiledonmainstreet said...

DBQ, that's great. When I was an apartment dweller and couldn't have a dog, although I really, really wanted one, I came across a life-sized statue of a sitting Golden Retriever at a rummage sale. I brought him home and put him in the living room. I put sunglasses and a scarf on him (and later had an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth) and told my friends his name was "Bob."

"This is Bob. He's a good dog. A quiet dog. But not a very lively dog."

Later on, when I was able to get a real live Golden, "Bob" was put in storage.

William said...

Robert E. Lee has become the whiite elephant in the square. People of his era and for a few generations after wanted to honor him. Should they be disenfranchised? From what I've read, he was an honorable man who behaved graciously in difficult circumstances. The aftermath to the Civil War would have been far nastier if Lee were not so gentlemanly. Southern Democrats have honored far worse leaders. I don't think the judgment of history is totally against Robert E. Lee. But screw Jefferson Davis. Throw that white elephant to the lions.

John said...

I really like DBQ's idea. Wouldn't dressing up the statue constitute "Art"? Well, maybe not if DBQ did it but if, say, Damien Hirst or Andy Warhole did it. Then it would become worth millions of dollars. Gotta have a good story, though.

Michaelangelo in a skirt and bra with a BurmaShave sign is just tacky if DBQ does it. It Hirst does it, "it represents the hermaneutic eschaton symbolizing the human condition and questioning the transgressive nature of zher hidden and latent transexuality hidden in all people." (Yeah, that's the ticket)

ART!(tm) to me seems like about 90% bullshit and stories.

John Henry

John said...

BTW: I like your taste, DBQ. Your husband's? Not so much. Tell him not to be so anti-art.

John Henry

buwaya said...

Most of this is plain tribal warfare, where the locally more powerful tribe defaces or removes the totems of the previously dominant tribe once it has conquered that territory.

The Wall Street bull is different. It is, or was, a municipal lucky charm connected to the principal local industry. Its meaning, and therefore its mystical significance, is changed profoundly.

William said...

I understood the raging bull to be a monument to the power and energy of American capitalism. Fearless Girl radically changes the meaning of that statue. It now has more to do with libidinal rage than with market forces. There's something not right about doing this. I sympathies with the sculptor of Raging Bull.......It's like that portrait of Hillary that hangs in the White House. It's my understanding that Trump now intends to hang that picture in the Oval Office and use it as a backdrop for all the excutive orders he signs. This is subversive of the artist's intent to honor that noted woman.

John said...

A more serious question for Ann, who knows a lot about Art!(tm) and the law. Anyone else should jump in as well.

Who owns an artwork? What rights, if any, does the artist retain after the normal sale. Copyright, of course. I can't copy it clearly. But if I had bought that statue of Douglass as a private citizen, would I get a bill of sale that says it is mine? Or woult there be caveats normally?

Could I put Fred out on my front lawn and dress him in a tutu? Paint him beige? Add a noose around his neck if I wanted to be really offensive? Oops, I mean transgressive. (Offensive art is bad. Transgressive art is good)

What rights does the artist normally retain?

John Henry

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Michaelangelo in a skirt and bra with a BurmaShave sign is just tacky if DBQ does it

I KNOW!! How unfair. No one recognizes great art unless you have a famous name! My artistic genius is being ignored. Artistic discrimination! I feel oppressed or appropriated or something. Better have another cup of coffee.

John said...

" This is subversive of the artist's intent to honor that crooked two time loser."

Fixed it for you, William.

So what rights does the artist retain over the picture? Other than to control additional copies under copyright law.

John Henry

Chuck said...

I presume that Althouse says "No" to a general "artist's veto", because such general vetoes could interfere with otherwise sound urban planning, civic administration, etc.

But I also presume, that Atlhouse would readily agree to the constitutionality and validity of statutory schemes to protect the integrity of public art. (We know that the Wall Street Bull was fraught with procedural issues on that front.)

I would think, that by contract, and/or by trust documentation, an artist could and perhaps should insist on protection of the kind at issue here. And that Althouse would in fact advise an artist to pursue those protections if Ann were counsel for the artist.

buwaya said...

And the rights of the artist dont matter a bit, if the piece was an item of commerce, etc.
The bull is on public property and if the local government wants to permit whatever they like, they should be able to do so, no matter how foolish.
The real problem is a matter of judgement, of the fitness of things, which cant be codified into law.

William said...

Many saints and the cathedrals erected to honor them were in favor of the Inquisition and the Crusades. Their views on women's rights and gay marriage were not all that one would hope for in a saint either. Should the cathedrals be renamed or would it be best to just tear them down and thereby erase the memory of Christianity's shameful past........Christianity had a pretty long run. Communism only lasted two or three generations. Fascism and the Nazis even less than that. Maybe there should be a statute of limitations on tearing down statues. If a man's reputation can survive for one hundred years or longer, then we shouldn't question the judgment of those who wished to grant them honors.

John said...

This discussion, and particularly DBQ's idea, reminded me of an anecdote from Cryptonomicon. Similar to her idea for Mike and mine for Fred:

Charlene, who actually gives every indication of being his ex-girlfriend now—hired an artist in San Francisco to come up with a poster.

He started with a black-and-white halftone photo of a haggard World War II infantryman with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. He worked this image over using a photocopier, blowing the halftone dots up into rough lumps, like rubber balls chewed by a dog, and wreaking any number of other distortions on it until it had an amazingly stark, striking, jagged appearance; the soldier’s pale eyes turned an eerie white. Then he added a few elements in color: red lipstick, blue eyeshadow, and a trace of a red brassiere strap peeking out from the soldier’s unbuttoned uniform shirt. The poster won some kind of an award almost the moment it came out.

This led to a press release, which in turn led to the poster’s being enshrined by the news media as an Official Object of Controversy. An enterprising journalist managed to track down the soldier depicted in the original photograph—a decorated combat veteran and retired tool-and-die maker who, as it happened, was not merely alive but in excellent health, and, since the death of his wife from breast cancer, had spent his retirement roaming around the Deep South in his pickup truck, helping to rebuild black churches that had been torched by drunken yahoos.

The artist who had designed the poster then confessed that he had simply copied it from a book and had made no effort whatsoever to obtain permission—the entire concept of getting permission to use other people’s work was faulty, since all art was derivative of other art.


I loves me some Neal Stephenson in the morning.

John Henry

Darrell said...

Brown-nosing Chuck is worse than the original.

gspencer said...

"But that's in part because it's Frederick Douglass..."

And to offer any sort of objection would of course be raaaaacist.

Similarly, to voice any concern of the ongoing worldwide jihad against all non-Islamic culture or any concern over Muslims' practices would be so Islamophobic.

John said...

Chuck,

I think the artist and the buyer could make a contract with covenants detailing what the buyer can and can't do with the art. Perhaps even granting the artist a share if there is increase in value in a later sale. I am a big believer in people being able to contract pretty much however they wish.

My question was whether this is a standard practice with art in general or the bull in particular.

Did the city sign a contract with the bull artist about how the statue would be displayed? I've not seen anything that says they did but might be wrong.

John Henry

tcrosse said...

As to that painting of Hillary as FLOTUS which hangs in the White House: at the time she was FLOTUS she was against Same-Sex Marriage. Ergo, the painting should be removed because its presence is insensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community.

Gahrie said...

How long until we start airbrushing controversial historical figures out of photos and paintings?

Ann Althouse said...

"DBQ, that's great. When I was an apartment dweller and couldn't have a dog, although I really, really wanted one, I came across a life-sized statue of a sitting Golden Retriever at a rummage sale. I brought him home and put him in the living room. I put sunglasses and a scarf on him (and later had an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth) and told my friends his name was "Bob.""

Reminds me of an old SNL sketch with Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford with his Golden Retriever Liberty. (The dog was a statue of some kind in the sketch.)

exiledonmainstreet said...

"Reminds me of an old SNL sketch with Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford with his Golden Retriever Liberty. (The dog was a statue of some kind in the sketch.)"

Ha! I don't remember that sketch, although I watched a lot of SNL in those days. I only remember Chase as Ford stumbling and falling over (which really was very unfair to Ford, who had been a college football star and was presumably pretty far from being a klutz).

David said...

Ceci n'est pas Frederick Douglas.

Earnest Prole said...

Clueless Girl.

campy said...

Clueless Girl.

I like to call the two NY sculptures "Feminism Standing Against Prosperity."

mike in houston said...

If it is ok to invade an artists space, how about a bronze of Joe Biden with his arms around Fearless Girl.

DKWalser said...

Should artists have the right to control the spaces that surround their artworks? In general, no. However, there is a federal law that gives them that right. In the case of the combination of Fearless Girl and Raging Bull, the sculptor of Fearless Girl is using Raging Bull to imbue Fearless Girl with a meaning it would not have without being in front of Raging Bull. So, in that sense, the new work appropriates the prior work without the other artist's permission. Worse, from the creator of Raging Bull's perspective, is that Fearless Girl completely transforms Raging Bull. It no longer is the symbol of Wall Street's dynamic energy and its determination to overcome great odds (the statue was created just after the market crash in October 1987) and has been turned into the symbol of sexism. It's no longer a positive statement about Wall Street; it's now a negative statement of all that's wrong with Wall Street.

Should another artist be able to alter another's work in such a manner? It's akin to putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa. But, its not the same thing because the Raging Bull wasn't physically harmed by the installation of Fearless Girl -- its meaning was just ruined.

DKWalser said...

Reminds me of an old SNL sketch with Chevy Chase as Gerald Ford with his Golden Retriever Liberty.

Are you sure you're not thinking of SOAP, the old sitcom that was a sendup of soap operas? IIRC, one the characters was senile and the family had his dog stuffed after it had died.

stlcdr said...

"...it's meaning was just ruined."

It wasn't. The meaning is still there, but the placement has just created confusion for all but the simplest, and selfish, minds (feminists, for example), or those who don't understand the meaning in the first place. The latter probably had no idea that there was a statue of a bull there, anyway, until someone placed another statue next to it.

Regardless, most sane people just see it as confusing symbolism with no substance. Or just stupid.

mockturtle said...

"Statues of Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are targeted for removal in New Orleans, after a federal appeals court approved the city's plan to change how it treats symbols of its history. Opponents of the move vow to keep fighting it in court...."

When I first read about this plan I was incredulous. Then angry. Now just sorrowful.

mockturtle said...

Gahrie asks: How long until we start airbrushing controversial historical figures out of photos and paintings?

Why do editorialists ignore the Stalinesque pattern to these actions? Or did they never study history?

JAORE said...

Take down the bull (temporarily) and install a statue of a group of boys entering and playing around a tree house with the prominent sign, "No gurlz allowed".

Sauce, goose, gander.

Ann Althouse said...

"Are you sure you're not thinking of SOAP, the old sitcom that was a sendup of soap operas? IIRC, one the characters was senile and the family had his dog stuffed after it had died."

Yes.

1. I remember Chevy Chase talking to Liberty and finding it very funny. At some point the statue falls over it and Chevy-as-Jerry keeps talking to it.

2. Never watched "Soap."

Sam's Hideout said...

This is an expansive view of the moral right of artists to the integrity of their work. Many countries' copyright law allows an artist to object to alteration, distortion, or destruction of their work. The US has very limited protection, other countries are more expansive.

ddh said...

Put "Fearless Girl" in front of Frederick Douglass, and you have "White Supremacist Girl."