The Fierce Legal Battle Over Who Owns ‘Fearless Girl’ Has Now Re-Emerged Halfway Around the World, in Australia
According to Kristen Visbal, State Street Global Advisors has “blocked and manipulated the very artist who created the work—a woman!”
Fearless Girl, the bronze sculpture whose feminist message first appeared in Manhattan, has spread all over the world.
And for the financiers behind its original appearance, that’s a problem.
Lawyers for Kristen Visbal, the Delaware-based artist, are up against State Street Global Advisors, who say they own the sculpture’s image and name. The opposing teams most recently appeared in a courtroom in Melbourne, Australia to plead their cases. State Street has brought a case against Visbal and Melbourne personal injury firm Maurice Blackburn, which commissioned a copy of Fearless Girl and placed it in that city’s Federation Square.
Maurice Blackburn “used the campaign to promote itself or themselves by tying the name of Fearless Girl to themselves,” said David Studdy, a lawyer for State Street, in court on Monday, reports the New York Times. Blackburn says that State Street is retroactively trying to assert rights it does not own.
The legal conflict has raged since February, when State Street filed a lawsuit against Visbal for selling versions of Fearless Girl to a real estate investor in Oslo, who installed the work in front of that city’s Grand Hotel, which he owns, as well as to Maurice Blackburn, which specializes in personal injury, class actions, and financial services. The company has also cited a copy Visbal brought with her to a women’s march in Los Angeles.
State Street, headquartered in Boston, asserts that it has control over the sculpture, stating that the firm “conceived and launched” the project. Visbal, for her part, says that she herself conceived the sculpture in order to “celebrate women,” and that she created it on a shoestring.
The sculpture first appeared in 2017, facing the Charging Bull that has stood for decades at Bowling Green, in New York. A plaque appeared with Fearless Girl, saying she called for greater representation of women on Wall Street.
Lawyers for either side could not immediately be reached for comment.
A GoFundMe campaign to cover Visbal’s legal fees has reached $7,520 of its $500,000 goal. “State Street has blocked the use of the Fearless Girl image and name on behalf of women for nearly two and a half years,” says Visbal in a video. “This company, who wholly represented themselves as being pro-diverse, has blocked and manipulated the very artist who created the work—a woman!”
Formerly in sales and hotel marketing, Visbal studied art in Maryland and then apprenticed at the Johnson Atelier Art Foundry in New Jersey. She has worked at a vineyard in Delaware since 1998. Her bronze sculptures of animals, athletes, and children, as well as abstract works, have appeared throughout the country.
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