State Street Global Advisors, the investment firm that famously commissioned the Fearless Girl statue in Lower Manhattan in 2017, is suing the artist who made it for breach of contract and copyright infringement.
According to official court filings dated as recent as February 14th, the investment firm is claiming that Kristen Visbal, the sculptor, is “weakening and adulterating the ‘Fearless Girl’ message by selling copies of the statue. The firm claims that the artist has made at least three unauthorised reproductions of the sculpture so far, one for an Australian law firm, one for the owner of the Grand Hotel in Oslo, and one that Visbal brought to the Women’s March in Los Angeles this year.
In conversation with UPI, SSGA said: SSGA has poured its ‘heart and soul’ into Fearless Girl and the important ideas it represents. The delivery of Visbal’s replica into the hands of unauthorized buyers will cause substantial and irreparable harm to Fearless Girl and her message, as well as SSGA, its reputation and its rights.
Last year, it became clear that Visbal wanted to produce and sell many of the iconic statue. Two-foot-tall copies of the ponytailed girl who stands with arms on her hips were being sold for $6,500 a pop. According to the sculpture’s official website, these reproductions were created in a limited supply of 1,000 and are based on a 3D scan of the original sculpture, later produced through the lost-wax casting process.
In 2017, SSGA agreed to pay $5 million to more than 300 female employees and 15 black employees who were paid less than their white and male counterparts. Some saw the commissioning of the statue as a move to improve the image of the firm at the time.
An important question this raises is whether or not an artist’s message can be legally protected.
Artist Arturo Di Modica, who famously created the Wall Street iconic Charging Bull sculpture in 1989 was vocal about his disdain of the Fearless Girl’s addition to downtown Manhattan park in 2017. Di Modica called for the Fearless Girl to be moved and argued that the bronze girl defiantly staring down the Bull isn’t so much art as much as it is an advertisement for the work’s corporate sponsor, allowing them to profit from Di Modica’s work and violating his copyright.
Di Modica and his legal team further argued that while the Fearless Girl sheds light on the gender and pay gap on Wall Street, it alters the originally positive message of the Charging Bull without Di Modica’s permission, violating the artist’s legal rights. While this did not lead to a formal lawsuit, it certainly stirred a debate about the law protecting artist’s messages.