Art Market

The firm behind the “Fearless Girl” sculpture sued an Australian company over a reproduction.

Wallace Ludel
Nov 25, 2019 11:17PM

The “Fearless Girl” sculpture at its original location in New York City. Photo by Steven Gomez, via Wikimedia Commons.

State Street Global Advisors (SSGA), the financial firm that commissioned Lower Manhattan’s Fearless Girl (2017) sculpture, is waging a legal battle over reproductions of the statue. Earlier this year, the firm sued the sculpture’s creator, Kristen Visbal, for “weakening and adulterating the ‘Fearless Girl’ message” by selling copies of the statue, and now they are filing a lawsuit against an Australian-based personal injury firm that commissioned a Fearless Girl of its own and installed it in Melbourne’s Federation Square.

Jennifer Kanis, a lawyer at the Australian firm, told the New York Times:

The statue could be something across the world that they could be proud of, and instead they are using it as a vehicle of control. [. . .] They should really know that feminism can’t be owned or controlled by the men of Wall Street.

According to the Times, Visbal said she has been commissioned to create Fearless Girl sculptures in London, Oslo, and Stevensville, Maryland, in addition to the Melbourne and New York City editions. Visbal argued that the original sculpture was not commissioned by SSGA, but was created independently to “celebrate women” with “no sponsor and a meager budget.”

In a fundraising video for her legal defense fund, Visbal said:

State Street [Global Advisors] has blocked use of the Fearless Girl image and name on behalf of women for nearly two and a half years. This company, who wholly represented themselves as being pro-diverse, has blocked and manipulated the very artist who created the work, a woman. Fearless Girl is a symbol of empowerment that has already been embraced by the world, and must be used on behalf of the people.

Fearless Girl first arrived in early 2017, when the four-foot-tall bronze statue was placed at the tip of Bowling Green Park, where she stared down the famous Charging Bull (1989), though she has since been relocated to a spot in front of the New York Stock Exchange. Critics say that this suite of lawsuits makes it clear that SSGA commissioned the sculpture as merely a means of manipulating brand identity rather than to signify a genuine ideological shift. In 2017, the same year Fearless Girl was first installed in New York City, SSGA agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement following accusations that it paid its female employees less than their male counterparts.

Further Reading: Fearless Girl Face-off Poses a New Question: Does the Law Protect an Artist’s Message?

Wallace Ludel