The popular “Fearless Girl” sculpture will remain outside the New York Stock Exchange after city officials voted Monday to extend the sculpture’s temporary permit for another 11 months. This decision comes with the stipulation that the city, the sculpture’s owner and the artist return within six months with a process to decide the final fate of the artwork.
While the vote has allayed short-term concerns, critics continue to question how the bronze sculpture evaded the city’s normal public art process for five years. Critics also wonder why the hedge fund’s sponsor, State Street Global Advisors, tried to sideline the sculpture’s creator in discussions about the sculpture’s future. (The artist has an ongoing legal dispute with State Street.)
“To overcome cynicism about the growing power of business, New York City must defend its public spaces,” said Todd Fine, a historian who garnered support for the statue, in an interview. “Today’s decision was a victory for fundamental justice and for the rights of artists.”
State Street said in a statement Monday: “We are grateful that the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue will remain in its current location in front of the New York Stock Exchange,” adding that given the outcome of the hearing, it would “work together.” with the Department of Transportation, PDC and the artist regarding our desire to keep the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue in its current location for an extended period of time.”
In November, State Street had asked the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to keep the work in place for the next 10 years, with assurances that the company would fund maintenance and repairs. Instead, the panel voted unanimously to keep the statue on the historic cobblestones of Broad Street for another three years and deferred the final decision to the Public Design Commission, a panel appointed by the mayor to oversee the art collection. from the city.
The committee on Monday seemed inclined to involve the artist.
“I want to keep people’s feet by the fire and solve this,” said Signe Nielsen, chairman of the committee, during the meeting. “How do we proceed here to ensure that this piece remains in the public domain, in addition to fostering a process where the artist is able to regain control of her piece?”
When “Fearless Girl” first appeared in the financial district in 2017, it was met with mixed reception. While some saw the statue as a brutal act of corporate feminism from a company with its own history of gender discrimination claims, 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 flock each year for a selfie with the girl who held her steadfast.
The image’s popularity certainly weighed on the Public Design Commission’s vote, as did the ongoing legal dispute over the copyright and trademark agreements between State Street and “Fearless Girl” sculptor Kristen Visbal. In 2019, the company sued the artist, alleging he violated those agreements, saying Visbal had caused “significant and irreparable damage” to “Fearless Girl” by selling replicas of the bronze. The artist filed a counter-claim alleging that State Street hindered its ability to spread the artwork’s message of gender equality.
“It’s just wrong what happened to me,” Visbal said of her deal with State Street. “I was misled.”
(State Street did not immediately respond to questions about the pending lawsuit.)
In an interview last week, Visbal said she is changing her legal representation after spending $3.2 million on the lawsuit. She said she still plans to release a series of non-replaceable tokens or NFTs based on the statue in the coming months to further cover her costs.
And because State Street applied for the original city permit for “Fearless Girl” directly through the Department of Transportation, Visbal said she was largely barred from discussions about the fate of her work — unusual in a public art process that typically prioritizes the opinion of the public. artists.
State Street has worked hard to secure the future of ‘Fearless Girl’. According to state disclosure forms, the company has spent $15,000 on the direct lobby of Nielsen and Sarah Carroll, the chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
Edward Patterson, a spokesman for the hedge fund, said the company hired a consultant because of the complex process of public art in the city.
Meanwhile, elected officials have complained that their views on “Fearless Girl” were not considered ahead of the Public Design Commission’s decision. In a letter to the panel, the chairman of Community Board 1 states that the hedge fund has not sufficiently concerned itself with local residents.
“An important step in the public engagement process is being skipped now that the review is underway,” wrote Tammy Melzer, the chairman. “There are greater concerns about the precedent this sets for other applicants when sending a message that it is acceptable to circumvent Community Board and public engagement.”
Councilor Christopher Marte, a Democrat for an area that includes the financial district, also wrote with concern about the deal while supporting a permanent plan for the sculpture. “It does not seem viable to continue indefinitely as temporary employment owned by a private entity,” he wrote.
The public design commissioners appeared to agree with the councilor on Monday, making it clear in their statements ahead of the vote that a limited timeline would force the artist, the hedge fund and the city to work together on a process to ensure that ” Fearless Girl” a permanent home.