New York allows the Fearless Girl to hold her ground for now

The popular Fearless Girl sculpture will continue to stand on the New York Stock Exchange after city officials voted Monday to extend the sculpture’s temporary permit for 11 months. This decision comes with the stipulation that the city, the owner of the sculpture and the artist return after six months with a process to decide the final fate of the work.

As the vote resolves concerns in the short term, critics continue to question how the bronze sculpture has circumvented the city’s normal public art process for five years. Critics also wonder why sponsor, State Street Global Advisors, an asset management company, they say, tried to remove the sculpture’s creator in discussions about the future of the sculpture. (The artist is in ongoing legal dispute with State Street.)

“To overcome the cynicism about growing corporate power, New York must protect its public spaces,” said Todd Fine, a historian who garnered support for the statue. “Today’s decision was a victory for basic justice and for the rights of artists.

State Street said in a statement Monday: “We appreciate that the Fearless Girl statue will remain in its current location on the New York Stock Exchange,” adding that given the outcome of the hearing, it will work “with the Department of Transportation, the PDC and the artist regarding our desire to keep the Fearless Girl statue in its current place for an extended period of time. “

In November, State Street asked the Landmark Protection Commission to keep the site in place for the next 10 years, assuring that the company would fund its maintenance and repair. Instead, the committee unanimously voted to keep the sculpture on the historic cobblestones of Broad Street for another three years and postponed the final decision of the Public Design Commission, a commission appointed by the mayor to oversee the city’s art collection.

The commission on Monday seemed inclined to include the artist.

“I want to keep people’s feet in front of the fire and allow this,” Signe Nielsen, the commission’s chairman, told the meeting. “How do we move forward here to allow this work to remain in the public sphere in addition to advancing a process in which the artist can regain control of his piece?”

When “Fearless Girl” first appeared in the Financial District in 2017, it received a mixed reception. While some saw the statue as a brazen act of corporate feminism by a company with its own history of allegations of sex discrimination, others saw it as a symbol of economic empowerment. After the statue moved to the steps of the New York Stock Exchange, thousands continued to gather each year for selfies with the girl he held.

The statue’s popularity certainly outweighed the Public Design Commission vote, as did the ongoing legal dispute over copyright and trademark agreements between State Street and Fearless Girl sculptor Kristen Visbal. In 2019, the company sued the artist, alleging a violation of these agreements and claiming that Visbal had caused “substantial and irreparable damage” to the “Fearless Girl” by selling bronze copies. The artist has filed a counterclaim alleging that State Street has hampered her ability to spread the artwork’s message of gender equality.

“What happened to me is just wrong,” Visbal said of his deal with State Street. “I was deceived.”

(State Street did not immediately answer questions about the ongoing lawsuit.)

In an interview last week, Visbal said she was changing her legal representation after spending $ 3.2 million on the case. She said she still plans to launch a set of irreplaceable tokens or NFT-based statues in the coming months to further offset her costs.

And because State Street is directly applying for the initial city permit for “Fearless Girl” through the Department of Transportation, Visbal said she is largely excluded from discussions about the fate of her work – unusual in a public art process that usually gives priority to the artist’s opinions.

State Street is working hard to secure the Fearless Girl’s future. According to government disclosure forms, the company spent $ 15,000 on direct lobbying of Nielsen and Sarah Carroll, chair of the Landmark Protection Commission.

Edward Patterson, a spokesman for State Street Global Advisors, said the company had hired a consultant because of the city’s complex public art process.

Elected officials, meanwhile, complained that their views on The Fearless Girl had not been considered before the Public Design Commission’s decision. In a letter to the panel, the chairman of the Municipal Council 1 said that State Street was not sufficiently engaged with the locals.

“A key step in the public engagement process is being missed now that a review is under way,” wrote Tammy Melzer, chairman. “There are greater concerns about the precedent this sets for other candidates when they announce that it is acceptable to deviate from the Community Council and public engagement.”

Councilor Christopher Marte, a Democrat from an area that includes the financial district, also wrote with concern about the deal, while supporting a permanent sculpture plan. “It does not seem viable to exist as a temporary job owned by a private person indefinitely,” he wrote.

Public design commissioners appear to have agreed with the adviser on Monday, making it clear in their pre-vote statements that a limited timeframe will force the artist, asset management company and the city to work together to ensure the Fearless Girl finds a permanent job. house.

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