The controversy behind Melbourne's 'Fearless Girl' statue

NEW YORK, USA – DECEMBER 14 : The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue stands at its new location in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, United States on December 14, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A statue of a little girl has got people talking after it was unveiled in Melbourne’s Federation Square on Tuesday.

But what’s all the fuss about?

Well, the “Fearless Girl” statue, which depicts a ponytailed girl standing with arms on her hips, isn’t an original; it’s one of several replicas.

The original is installed on New York’s Wall Street.

The two-foot-tall bronze sculptor was created by US-based artist Kristen Visbal after she received a commission from State Street Global Advisors, a gender-diverse investment fund.

A plaque below the original statue reads: “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” with “SHE” used to represent women and the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol.

State Street Global Advisors is angry that Visbal is making copies of a statue that it initially paid for and it’s decided to sue her.

But Visbal insists she has the copyright.

“I’m sure it will be resolved,” Ms Visbal said of the lawsuit, according to SBS News.

“Fearless Girl cannot be owned by anyone – it is a global message that belongs to everyone. I will continue to place fearless girl around the world to support her message.”

Designed to be a symbol of female strength, “Fearless Girl” immediately garnered attention across the world when it was installed two years ago facing Wall Street’s iconic Charging Bull.

Picture: Getty Images

It’s since been relocated to a spot outside The New York Stock Exchange following complaints from the bull’s creator, Arturo Di Modica, who said it reduced the bull’s meaning.

Last October, Hyperallergic reported that a “Fearless Girl” two-foot tall, replica statue could be purchased online for $US6,500.

Critics of “Fearless Girl” claim that the statue has always been about money and never about feminism.

On Tuesday, Madeline Fry, a columnist at the Washington Examiner, wrote: “SSGA doesn’t want the original “Fearless Girl,” which has a permanent home across from the New York Stock Exchange, to diminish in value. Visbal doesn’t want to miss out on profiting from the statue’s international fame. Even before this financial tussle, the sculpture was always about publicity, not female empowerment.”

Sculptor Alexander Gardega called the “Fearless Girl” statue “corporate nonsense” in May 2017. At the time, he created a statue of a small dog, titled “Pissing Pug” and put it next to the “Fearless Girl”.

The legacy of the “Fearless Girl” statue now appears to be in the hands of lawyers.

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