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(photo credit: Viva Sarah Press)
Driving along Rothschild Boulevard last week, I was surprised to see bulls grazing in the middle of the pedestrian thoroughfare. It turns out that the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange stationed the 100 colorful fiberglass statues there last Tuesday in honor of its 70th anniversary. The bulls are set to stay on display till mid-January.
It is not the first time urban animal artistry has taken over the city. Zurich started the worldwide trend in 1998 with painted cow statues, Toronto joined the club with moose, Berlin boasted bears, Tel Aviv took on dolphins and penguins, and Jerusalem claimed lions. Now the cultural capital of Israel is at it once again, this time with bulls.
The bull in market terms represents a good financial market, one with expectations of further capital gains.
"This unique project expresses the connection between the stock exchange and the leading Israeli companies that are traded there," Ronit Harel Ben Ze'ev, senior vice president at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, wrote in a press release.
The local Hebrew press has had a field day disputing the fiberglass herd as true art.
"The contribution of this project to the world of art is negligible in every respect. Most of the participants in it are not first-class artists, and it is doubtful if any of their careers will be boosted by their participation here," wrote Smadar Sheffi in Haaretz.
Still, the hundreds of Tel Aviv residents who ambled alongside this reporter over the weekend seemed to be rather enjoying themselves. Children scrambled up onto the bulls' necks for a stationary ride, dogs barked at the noiseless beasts, and adults pondered the animals' titles.
True, it's all but free advertising for the 100 biggest companies in the Tel Aviv stock market behind the statues, but, there are some very punny and clever motifs.
Elron's bull is decked out in flowers in support of the slogan, "fertile ground for technology growth." The Dan Hotel chain boasts a beach bull called "The Sea Shore" (a pun on the word "shore", which in Hebrew means bull). The Jerusalem Bank called its steer "Jerusalem mix" after the capital's renowned meat dish, but here shows a true mix of Jerusalem with Christian, Moslem and Jewish objects.
Each sculpture is supposed to, though doesn't always, reflect one of the companies spirit.
The El Al statue hits bull's-eye with its design - the bull, decked out in blue-and-white and with airplane windows painted on its side, is standing on a short runway; while Klal Insurance's message isn't quite as clear as its bull with extra long horns is covered in grass and rock. Osem's bull is a huge attraction for the children as the company's flagship icon, Bamba baby, entices a yellow bull with the peanut flavored snack. Osem called its bull "Hashefa", which translates to "abundance."
According to reports, NIS 1.7 million was the combined budget for this project. After the outdoor showing, the bulls will return to their respective company headquarters.
Already an outdoor art gallery with a number of permanent sculptures on display, Rothschild Blvd - from Habima up to the Founders Monument and Fountain - for the next month also includes colorful fiberglass bulls as part of its scenery.