Fearless girl may be about to get evicted

Fearless girl may be about to get evicted
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Remember the bronze statue called “Fearless Girl” that was initially set up opposite Di Modica’s Charging Bull on Broadway? Created as a statement/advertisement for State Street Global Advisors, it was a hit with tourists back in 2017. But people pointed out that by placing it opposite Charging Bull it was essentially a derivative work which also changed the meaning of the bull statue. So despite it’s popularity, it got moved.

In 2018, Fearless Girl was moved to a location facing the New York Stock Exchange and it has been there ever since, though maybe not for much longer.

Is the “Fearless Girl” now facing eviction? Public officials have delayed a hearing on making the bronze a more permanent part of the city’s landscape. The sculpture’s fate depends on the Public Design Commission, a panel appointed by the mayor to oversee the city’s art collection. The group will not hold a hearing until December at the earliest. Meanwhile, the artwork’s three-year permit, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission, will expire on Nov. 29.

“We are being left in limbo,” said Kristen Visbal, the artist who created Fearless Girl…

Last month, State Street requested a long-term permit from the commission that would keep “Fearless Girl” in place for the next 10 years. Olivia Offner, a company spokeswoman, said that the financial firm is committed to funding the statue’s ongoing maintenance and repair.

Normally, a statue looking for a permanent place in the city would begin its process with the Public Design Commission, which would help decide its design and location. In this case, though, the commission is weighing in four years after the sculpture hit the streets, and the Landmarks Preservation Commission will issue an advisory report to the design panel, which will decide its fate.

Generally, I think people should have a say in what statues and public art they look at. In the case of confederate statues, they should be removed to a museum if the majority of people don’t want them on display. What should not happen is a bunch of random goons in masks pulling them down without any hint of an orderly, democratic process. The same rule sort of applies here. Ultimately, in a democracy issues like this should be about giving the people what they want but it still has to happen through an established process and in New York City that means the public art bureaucracy.

Even if this statue gets removed, there are now copies of it in London, Melbourne and Oslo:

It turns out the company that commissioned the statue sued artist Kristen Visbal over her right to make and sell copies:

Visbal made twenty-five editions of “Fearless Girl” and two artist’s proofs. She sold eight replicas, for up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, including one to the law firm Maurice Blackburn, in Melbourne, Australia, and one to an investor in Oslo, who put the statue in front of the city’s Grand Hotel, which he owns. Visbal also sold more than a hundred miniature versions for about six thousand dollars each, and took a resin copy to the Women’s March in Los Angeles in January, 2019. A month later, State Street sued Visbal, accusing her of breach of contract, and of causing “substantial and irreparable harm” to Fearless Girl and to State Street by selling copies. Visbal filed a counterclaim, alleging that State Street was hampering her ability to spread Fearless Girl’s message of gender equality.

Visbal now claims she has spent $2.75 million in legal fees. As always, it’s the lawyers who get rich.

In any case, the original placement of “Fearless Girl” has inspired other artists. Last month a 7-foot-tall Harambe statue was installed opposite Charging Bull as a criticism of capitalism being out of touch.

That stunt didn’t last long. Harambe was apparently removed later the same day.

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