5 pieces of art that make us think about the world we live in
Artura di Mondica's 'Fearless Girl' is one of many works of art that force us to stop and question our economies – how they work, who for, and why
On International Women's Day, sculptor Kristen Visbal snuck onto Wall Street in the dead of night to erect a rival to the famous bull: a 'Fearless Girl', staring him down with her hands on her hips, ponytail in mid-swing and a plaque at her feet with the words, "Know the power of women in leadership. She CAN make a difference."
Commissioned by State Street Global Advisors, the third biggest asset management firm in the world, the purpose of the statue is to spread the message that more women should be in leadership roles in Wall Street (right now, about half its staff are female, but only 2% are CEOs.)
The piece is so effective first and foremost because of where it's placed – not trapped in the four walls of a museum, but out in the open, ready to be stumbled upon, posed with, tweeted about.
It's not the first piece of art to catch people off guard in a public space and spur them to think twice about the economies we live in. Here's a few more:
The Charging Bull
The Fearless Girl's frenemy himself began as a piece of guerrilla art. It was so well received that the city accepted him as a permanent feature of Wall Street.
Artist Arturo di Mondica spent $360,000 and a lot of time creating the statue after the 1987 stock market crash as a symbol of the 'optimism and strength' of the American people. The term 'bullish' is used in finance to describe an investor who thinks stocks are going to go up (as opposed to 'bearish', someone who thinks they'll go down.)
'There's no disputing what it is. It's a giant cock.'
Grayson Perry has never been one to fear big statements. This sculpture, though not technically displayed in a public space, was broadcast on Channel 4 during his documentary 'All Man', investigating masculinity in its natural habitats – one being the financial sector.
The sculpture is covered in banknotes and pictures of former UK Chancellor George Osborne. We would explain it, but Perry put it best himself: "There's no disputing it. It's a giant cock."
Needless to say, bankers weren't too pleased about the whole thing – which only really bolstered Perry's point that the sector is too proud for its own good.
'Capitalism Works For Me' – true or false?
Does capitalism work for you? Steve Lambert asked passersby across the US and London to vote 'true' or 'false' to the statement 'capitalism works for me', and tell him to camera why they'd chosen what they did. A ticker on the sign showed the score.
Although the question was a simple one, it got people sharing some fascinating responses – about the comparisons between capitalism and other systems of living, about the values behind our economy and whether they're okay with them, and about the sense that this is just 'the best we have for now.'
8 million coins for 8 million people
The idea of basic income is slowly but surely spreading around the world as a possible alternative to the welfare systems we've got. Instead of waiting until people are in distress to give them money, basic income systems guarantee everyone a base of money from which to live – no matter who they are.
Switzerland held a referendum on the idea last year (they lost, but only by a narrow margin.) In the run-up to the vote, the Generation Basic Income Initiative, led by artist Enno Schmidt, staged a stunt in the city of Basel, pouring 8 million five cent coins – one for each person in Switzerland – onto a public square.
Their message? The problem isn't that we don't have enough money – our streets are, quite literally, paved with gold – it's that we're not distributing it
The son of a migrant from Syria
"We're often led to believe migration is a drain on the country's resources, but Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant. Apple is the world's most profitable company, it pays over $7bn a year in taxes – and it only exists because they allowed in a young man from Homs."
That's Banksy, world-renowned graffiti artist and outspoken critic of the economic system we live in. He created this piece in 2015 to protest the way we talk about immigrants and their value to the economy, pointing out that Steve Jobs was an immigrant too.
Reception was mixed: Some felt it was a powerful way to drive home the message of the positive effects of immigration, but others weren't so sure –"I hope the world will rally to help the millions of refugees who are in need simply because they are in need, and not because they may someday invent the next iPhone," said Issie Lapowsky for Wired.