The fate of New York’s Fearless Girl statue is once again up in the air while its maker and the corporation that commissioned it battle over who owns the intellectual property.
According to the New York Post, the artist behind the scrappy sculpture, Kristen Visbal, is claiming that her contract with State Street Corporation, the financial services company that paid for the piece, grants her full intellectual property rights. That’s the contract that was filed with the City of New York, she believes.
State Street, meanwhile, says it has a different contract, one that limits Visbal’s control over the bronze object, which currently stands across from the New York Stock Exchange.
“One document assigns her full intellectual property rights, and the other limits those rights,” Todd Fine, a Lower Manhattan preservationist working on behalf of Visbal, told the Post, saying that he has reviewed copies of both agreements.
At the fore of the debate is the issue of replication: Visbal wants to make and sell copies of her sculpture, but State Street says she signed away the right to do so. The legal dispute goes back to 2019, when the corporation sued Visbal for breach of contract after she produced a series of Fearless Girl facsimiles, including one that she brought to the Women’s March in Los Angeles that year.
“I have a problem with the work not being used widely by a diverse group of organizations that are aligned with the ideals behind it,” Visbal said during a press conference held next to the statue this week.
This is what happens when we let corporations rule New York City — to the point of even making public art advertisements! This cannot be allowed to happen. The City must stop dealing with @StateStreetGA immediately. The permit is over. Let the artist contribute a casting.
— Todd Fine (@tfine) December 2, 2021
However, both parties are aligned on one goal: keeping the statue where it is.
Unveiled on International Women’s Day in 2017, Visbal’s sculpture spent more than a year facing down Charging Bull at New York’s Bowling Green park before being relocated to its current spot in 2018. At the time, State Street secured a three-year permit for the piece from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Public Design Commission. That permit expired on November 29.
“In America, women have struggled for 121 years, and this little sculpture unofficially represents the women’s movement,” Visbal explained this week. “What does it say if we remove her?”
Now, the corporation is applying to extend the agreement another three years. The Landmarks Preservation Commission will hear the group’s pitch at a meeting on December 14. A report will be submitted to the Public Design Commission to make a final decision.
The day before, on December 13, Visbal and representatives from State Street will meet for a court-requested mediation, according to the Post.
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