Last Day for the Fearless Girl?

Women’s Day 2018 may be the last day that Kristen Visbal’s Fearless Girl faces down Arturo Di Modica’s Charging Bull in New York’s Financial District.

The four-foot-tall bronze of a defiant girl with her hands on her hips appeared across from the bull a year ago, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors to highlight the paucity of female representation on the boards of the high-market capitalization companies that compose the Russell 3000 Index.

Fearless Girl’s original permit lasted for a few weeks, but public response was so positive that the city extended that through today.

Though the statue’s origins with an asset management company whose record on pay equity is tarnished by a suit by female and Black employees who allege underpayment is problematic, the public quickly embraced Fearless Girl as a resonant symbol of women’s empowerment. A few months after the statue’s installation, State Street paid a $5 million settlement in the suit, though the company denies any wrongdoing.

Her Charging Bull counterpart has a similarly checkered history. Arturo Di Modica intended his sculpture, which he installed without a permit under a Christmas tree in front of the New York Stock Exchange in December 1989, as a morale-boosting gift to traders. They were nonplussed and removed the bull within a day. The statue found a new home two blocks south, where it became an icon of American might and capitalism–problematic themes in their own right.

Fearless Girl’s sculptor Visbal admires Charging Bull as “beautiful” and “a stunning piece of art.” For his part, Di Modica opposes the positioning of Fearless Girl, arguing that she is “and advertising trick” that raises “issues of copyright and trademark” and frames his valedictory gift as a villain.

But New York Mayor Bill DiBlasio put a bow on the complexities of the standoff with an April 2017 Tweet reading “Men who don’t like women taking up space are exactly why we need the Fearless Girl.”

Illustration of an analog numeric typewriter, superimposed on a paper chart of printed numbers.

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