'Girl in a Wetsuit' – Vancouver, British Columbia - Atlas Obscura

'Girl in a Wetsuit'

What happens when a sculptor has to find a way around a 100-year-old copyright. 


On the shore of Copenhagen sits the famous Little Mermaid sculpture, a nude woman based on a local ballerina—at least in the face; the body was based on the sculptor’s wife. The sculpture was made in 1913 and has since suffered numerous indignities; It has been painted numerous times, been decapitated twice, had its arm sawed off, and been blown up. This hasn’t stopped other sculptors from wanting to copy the famous mermaid.

However, those wanting to copy the statue face a serious problem, which is that the statue is still under copyright and Copenhagen vigorously enforces it. (Curiously, the one in Copenhagen is itself a copy as the sculptor wanted to keep the original for himself; today the original is kept by his heirs in an undisclosed location.) When Greenville, Michigan, created a half-size copy for their town’s Danish Heritage celebration, Copenhagen’s “Artists Rights Society” sued them for back royalties.

Vancouver decided to get around this problem in a curious way. By “updating” the mermaid with a snazzy new wetsuit complete with a snorkel mask and fins, they avoided the copyright issue while making the uniquely Vancouver Girl in a Wetsuit in 1972. While not as revealing as the one in Copenhagen, this girl is far more ready for the water than Copenhagen’s “mermaid.”

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