Bowling Green’s mystery missing menorah found 22 years later

In 1997, ‘Charging Bull’ sculptor Arturo Di Modica created the menorah and it was used that year for Hanukkah.

Arturo Di Modica’s 1997 Menorah at Bowling Green in New York City. (photo credit: ARTHUR PICCOLO)
Arturo Di Modica’s 1997 Menorah at Bowling Green in New York City.
(photo credit: ARTHUR PICCOLO)
How a four-meter high menorah sculptured by “Charging Bull” artist Arturo Di Modica disappeared 22 years ago remains a mystery.
But recently, the missing mysterious menorah was found.
According to Jacob Harmer, who represents Di Modica, the sculptor’s work “has always been about creating works of meaning which give back.”
He told The Jerusalem Post that the “Charging Bull” was made in the wake of the 1987 Black Monday stock market crash, and in 1989, Di Modica dropped it during the night illegally outside the New York City Stock Exchange “as his gift to the American people.”
“It was intended to inspire people to carry on fighting through the hard times with strength and determination for the future,” Harmer said.
In 1997, Di Modica created, with his own money, the menorah and it was intended to be used to celebrate Hanukkah that year with the Jewish community.
“The sculpture was installed at Bowling Green [in New York City],” Harmer continued. “It was made four-feet high and in bronze with real candles which were lit during a ceremony. The ceremony was captured by the late impressionist painter Kamil Kubik with the menorah as the focal point.”
The lighting in 1997 was the first one ever to take place at Bowling Green.
After Hanukkah, the sculpture was put in storage close to Bowling Green with the intention of being re-installed the following year for Hanukkah.
But that was not to be.
“The next year when Di Modica went to get the sculpture, it was gone,” Harmer said. “Di Modica and Arthur Piccolo spent many years searching for the sculpture but eventually resigned themselves to the fate that it was gone and never to be seen again.”
However, earlier in the year, “I learned the story of the menorah and saw the photos as I was researching the history of Di Modica, authoring a book about his life, Arturo Di Modica: The Last Modern Master,” Harmer said.
Prior to working with Harmer, Di Modica worked completely alone “his whole life, so despite ‘Charging Bull’ drawing millions of visitors each year, people don’t know the incredible story of his life and the true meaning of his art.”
He said that he believed that menorah “is priceless” because “it was never created for money.”
Asked about how he found the menorah, Harmer said that he is always watching the auction market “and [I] received an alert that a work by Di Modica was going on sale.
“Instantly I saw it was the menorah,” he recalled. “It looked totally different as it seems to be have painted or something but I could see the structure was exactly the same.”
Harmer said that he immediately contacted the auction house and informed them that they were marketing stolen goods, must cease and return the menorah.
“The police were brought in and eventually the auction house permitted Di Modica to inspect the sculpture,” he said. “He went with Arthur Piccolo and he confirmed it was his menorah.”
Although there has been a tug-of-war battle to get the menorah back, Harmer confirmed that the two sides are working on “an amicable settlement with the consignor to the auction house to re-acquire the sculpture.”
Asked how Di Modica felt after it was found, Harmer said he “was very surprised when I told him and immediately wanted to go to see it.
“This wasn’t so straight forward… [but] I was incredibly excited [too] as we thought the mystery of the lost menorah would never be answered,” Harmer said.
He said that they hope to re-install the Hanukkiah at Bowling Green “and then find a permanent public space for it to be displayed – maybe in Israel.
“What happened to it during the 22 years it was missing is a total mystery,” said Harmer.
Perhaps, this was Harmer and Di Modica’s own Hanukkah miracle.
Since it went missing in 1997, it was replaced in the early 2000s with an LED version, which has since been used.
The auction house in question did not respond to several email requests for comment.