The myriad public sculptures of the Financial District prove that high finance and high culture can go hand in hand. Artworks are nearly as ubiquitous in the area as traders, and their styles are as diverse as the city’s population. Below are a few popular favorites; as you stroll the neighborhood you’re certain to see many more.
Broadway and Morris Street
The 7,100-pound, 11-foot-tall bronze statue has become such an icon of Wall Street, one might forget that it has stood in its cobblestone intersection only since 1989. And although some see the sculpture as a symbol of capitalism, Arturo Di Modica created it as a paean to the indomitable American spirit. What’s more, it was not a commissioned work: In the wee hours of Dec. 15, 1989, Di Modica and a few friends carted and unloaded the statue beneath a giant Christmas tree in front of the New York Stock Exchange—much to the surprise, but not delight, of the Exchange. The police impounded the statue, but public hue and cry led the city to install it in its current location.
Caption: Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull.
[Image: Andrés Nieto Porras/Flickr ]
Broadway and Whitehall Street
Installed opposite Charging Bull in March 2017, Fearless Girl is a bronze statue by Kristen Visbal of a ponytailed girl standing with hands on hips in the bull’s path, staring it down. Many viewed the statue as a feminist and/or anticapitalist statement, but ironically, the work was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to promote its Gender Diversity Index Fund, whereas Charging Bull was a work of guerrilla art. The 50-inch-tall Fearless Girl currently has a permit to remain in place through February 2018, but efforts are continuing to have it be a permanent addition to the site.
Fearless Girl by Kristen Visbal.
[Image: Anthony Quintano/Flickr]
Group of Four Trees
28 Liberty Street, between Nassau and William Streets
The antithesis of the classical style of Charging Bull and Fearless Girl, Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees is abstract whimsy. Made of white plastic over an aluminum frame and a steel armature, it is a towering, complex construction of planes with thick black outlines emphasizing their organic silhouettes. Some have compared the work to an oversize coloring book—quite a contrast to the no-nonsense modernist Chase Manhattan Building it stands in front of. The contrast is no doubt that is why David Rockefeller commissioned Dubuffet to create the work in 1969.
Group of Four Trees by Jean Dubuffet.
140 Broadway, between Liberty and Cedar Streets
Group of Four Trees provides a subtle, sinuous contrast to the straight lines of the Chase Manhattan Building. Isamu Noguchi’s Red Cube, on the other hand, is anything but subtle. Not only does the bold color stand out against the blacks and grays of the surrounding buildings, but so do the diagonal lines of the aluminum-cast steel structure and the curves of the circle cut out of its center.
Red Cube by Isamu Noguchi.
[Image: Erik Drost/Flickr]
Joie de Vivre
Zuccotti Park, Broadway and Cedar Street
Originally located outside the Holland Tunnel, this sculpture by Mark di Suvero now stands across from Red Cube. Though also red, Joie de Vivre is in form the yin to Red Cube’s yang: Standing 70 feet high, it is a sinewy steel gathering of beams that makes a positive of negative space. The statue gained public attention in October 2011, when an Occupy Wall Street protestor climbed it, remaining there for several hours before being removed by the police.
Joie de Vivre by Mark di Suvero. Image: Achim Hepp/Flickr]
Balloon Flower (Red)
7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street
Like Red Cube and Joie de Vivre, this stainless-steel sculpture by Jeff Koons is large, red, and in a public plaza. The resemblance, however, ends there. All gleam and curves, Balloon Flower (Red) is a nine-foot-tall representation of the sort of balloon creations made by clowns at children’s parties. Installed in 2006, it sits in the center of a fountain that is dedicated to survivors of 9/11, and its lightheartedness does make it a celebration of survival.
Balloon Flower (Red) by Jeff Koons.
[Image: John Wisniewski/Flickr]
Shadows and Flags
Intersection of Liberty Street, William Street, and Maiden Lane
Louise Nevelson created the seven abstract statues that make up Shadows and Flags specifically for this triangular patch of the Financial District. The city returned the favor by naming the plaza after her; it was the first public plaza in New York to be named after an artist. The six smaller sculptures range from 20 to 40 feet high, while the seventh statue towers above them at roughly 70 feet high. Made of black-painted steel, the works are a medley of curves, lines, and angles designed to invoke, in part, flags waving in the wind.
Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street
The modern sculptures dotted throughout FiDi could leave one convinced that street art was a 20th-century invention. The bronze statue of George Washington on the steps of Federal Hall put paid to that. Sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward (no relation to our second or sixth president) in 1882, it marks where Washington was inaugurated in 1789 as the country’s first president.
George Washington by John Quincy Adams Ward.
[Image: Peter Kaminski/Flickr]