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Italian sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who created the famous "Charging Bull" statue which has become a symbol of New York's Wall Street, died overnight at the age of 80, Italian media reported Saturday.
The artist, who died at his home in Vittoria in the south of the island of Sicily, "had been battling cancer for years and his condition had worsened in recent weeks," La Repubblica daily said on its website.
Di Modica, who was born in Vittoria, shot to fame after illegally leaving his bronze 4.9 metre-long (16 feet), 3.2 tonne Charging Bull outside the New York Stock Exchange building in December 1989.
When he and his friends turned up in a truck carrying the huge sculpture they found that the NYSE Christmas tree had been installed exactly where he had wanted to place the sculpture. They left the Charging Bull under the 40 foot (12 metre) tree.
He had financed the bronze statue himself at a cost of $350,000 (290,000 euros). Di Modica had wanted to give something back to his adoptive city in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash.
Di Modica later said the sculpture was a symbol of people's strength - "You can do it by yourself. My point was that you must be strong,".
The New York Stock Exchange swiftly had the sculpture removed but it was soon given a permanent location at the Bowling Green public park on Broadway.
In a recent interview with La Repubblica, the sculptor recalled the idea behind the Charging Bull. "It was a time of crisis, the New York Stock Exchange had plummeted more than 20 percent overnight. With some friends I asked myself what I could do for for 'my' town.
"Of course I am from Vittoria but I lived for more than 40 years in New York. And I got the idea to sculpt a bull, the image of a stock exchange on the rise. It must have been a witticism, a provocation. But it turned into something serious."
"I have been told that after the Statue of Liberty, the 'Charging Bull', right next to the temple of finance, is the most visited monument in New York. it even beats the Empire State Building," he added.
Di Modica's sculpture is certainly one of the most photographed subjects in the Big Apple.
A legend has developed that if visitors rub the nose, horns and testicles of the bronze bull they'll have good luck. The shininess of these parts of the sculpture attest.