She mightn't be staring down a charging bull like when she was installed in New York's financial district, but Kristen Visbal's 'Fearless Girl' is now in Melbourne. The 1.3-metre bronze statue, unveiled by the artist today in Federation Square, is a limited-edition reproduction of the original, here in time for International Women's Day on March 8. And just like in New York, there are some big corporations behind it: law firm Maurice Blackburn, and industry super funds HESTA and Cbus.
That's because 'Fearless Girl' was created by Visbal as both a statement about gender diversity in the finance industry and an advertisement for a fund comprised of gender-diverse companies.
But for a statue that simply depicts a young girl standing her ground, it's proven to be particularly controversial. It became an instant hit on Instagram when it was installed in 2017 opposite artist Arturo Di Modica's famous 'Charging Bull' statue, but soon drew criticism from Di Modica himself, who called the statue an "advertising trick" and asked it to be relocated. After almost two years in that position, it moved late last year to a new spot outside the New York Stock Exchange.
It also drew criticism for being a symbol for "corporate feminism" that betrays "women's struggle for justice". Then just a few weeks ago the investment firm that originally commissioned the statue filed a lawsuit against Visbal for making replicas – including the one in Melbourne – for what they allege is a violation of trademark.
The politics behind the statue are a bit of a mess – perhaps money, feminism and art don't mix all that well. But the symbol itself is still pretty striking and should send a message to Melbourne's corporate sector to lift its game where gender diversity is concerned.
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