Markets up, markets down; bear to bull, bull to bear. Bronze effigies of these two majestic creatures have been used to represent the ever-changing balancing act of the stock market for hundreds of years.
Mention the stock market soaring, and an image of the bull comes to mind. Markets down conjure up the bear in your mind’s eye. Bronze likenesses of the bear and the bull are ubiquitous for anyone the least interested in the daily financial markets in New York, Chicago and St. Louis.
St. Louis you say? While there is no stock exchange, the folks at Stifel Financial Corp. felt it necessary to commission one of America’s greatest giant sculpture masters, Mr. Harry Weber.
According to a blog article in the Wall Street Journal:
While St. Louis might not have famous pizza or an actual stock exchange, it does have barbecue and soon will have its own Wall Street bull. It’s even one-upping Wall Street by adding a measured force: a bear……..
The St. Louis based investment bank is in the process of closing a deal to acquire KBW Inc., a Manhattan-based investment bank to the banks and one of the firms most associated with the World Trade Center.
Stifel CEO Ronald Kruszewski says the growth in his city and his bank echo each other, but both stories remain underplayed because of New York’s dominance in banking. Stifel’s gone from 1,200 employees to 5,500.
“We have been growing like a weed,” Kruszewski says.
“I think if you would say the city is the second to New York, the idea to put some art on the ground … is appropriate,” Kruszewski said. “It isn’t like putting a bull and bear in an oil town.”
I had a chance to speak with Harry Weber by telephone in preparation for the writing of this article, and quickly understood why he receives the huge amount of respect and recognition he deserves. When I asked him about some of his projects, we spoke at some length of the Louis and Clark monument in the Mississippi River (yes, sometimes completely underwater), known as The Captain’s Return. The placement of the monument commemorates the 200th anniversary of the return from Louis and Clark’s 2-year exploration of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase.
“We use Permalac as a finish coat to protect our monuments from the ravages of weather and conditions particular to the site,” said Mr. Weber. “In the case of The Captain’s Return, because the site is nearly exactly the spot where they landed, occasionally the sculpture gets completely submerged underwater. Most of the time a portion of the piece is submerged constantly, so it is imperative it be protected from the harsh realities of nature. Permalac not only protects it better than other lacquers, it won’t discolor the patina of the piece,” he added.
“As for the commissioning of the Stifel piece, it took numerous sketches and drawings to come up with the right image. On Wall Street, the Bull signifies the upward mobility of the market. There is no bear. In this case, the balance of the markets is in constant contest, with upswings and downturns. Rather than a decisive winner of battle to decide a victor, the bear and the bull needed to reflect that constant struggle of the winners and losers in the marketplace.”
I also learned that over the course of his career, Mr. Weber has crafted more than 100 large sculptures, and an innumerable amount of smaller works. Although not all of his works possess the signature lacquer’s protection, Perlamac is a big part of his finishing touch.
In this 20-minute video, Harry Weber chronicles the entire project. As you might imagine, the design and construction process of a 9000-pound sculpture is amazing to watch. The video is quite illustrative and informative (The Bull & Bear: https://youtu.be/0GFEhG03JY4).
The originally published WSJ article: http://blogs.wsj.com/deals/2012/12/14/st-louis-to-get-its-own-bull-and-bear-statue/
Image Credit: Stifel Financial Corp.
Captain’s Return by Harry Weber and the use of Permalac https://vimeo.com/85102911