Of course, Vilnius is not the first city to erect a statue to a Jewish sage for civic reasons. There is a statue of Rabbi Löw (Maharal) by the Art Nouveau Ladislav Šaloun on the New City Hall of Prague erected ca. 1910 (photo here) and one of Maimonides in Cordoba installed in 1964. These are all productions of local authorities trying to the right thing. In Prague, the Maharal was a central figure in local history and a character in local lore, hence his inclusion on the City Hall which is located not far from the Prague Jewish Quarter. In the case of Spain, there was no doubt a element of civic pride, but also possibly an accommodation of hoped-for Jewish tourism, too (this seems a little odd, since this was installed in Franco's Spain - so anyone with information on the origins of this statue please let me know).
The Vilnius depiction of the Gaon, by sculptor Mindaugas Snipas, is not in fact a representation of the Gaon at all, but a stylized work based on an earlier, now lost, plaster bust called The Jewish Sage by Teodoras Kazimieras Valaitis (1934-1974). The work also recalls the large bronze heads of Moses sculpted by was a Lithuanian-born American sculptor William Zorach (1887-1966) in the 1950s. Zorach was born in Jubarkis and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1894.
I'm not really bothered by the Vilna Gaon bust and I'd be much less bothered if this single statue didn't loom so large in the Jewish heritage cityscape of Vilnius. For several years after the unveiling of this statue it seemed that local officials felt this was enough recognition of the Jewish past. The city was developing rapidly, the old Jewish neighborhood represented desirable real estate, and the municipality especially had other things on its mind. Only slowly, and now in the last few years a little more quickly, has the pace of recognizing other spaces and places important to Vilnius's Jewish history and other Jewish individuals central to its history, picked up.
Bronze sculpture designed by Algimantas and Vytautas Nasvytis, and sculpted by Petras Aleksandravičius (1970)
Shabad was an important man in his time. He was a leading physician, scientist, leader of the Jewish community and active in Vilna and Polish politics. Born in Vilna but educated in Moscow, he was a force for progressive medical and social action and in many ways his active secular life was an alternative to that represented by the Vilna Gaon. The real popularity of this statue in Vilnius, however, apparently has nothing to so with Szabad's Jewish credentials, but is because he was the inspiration of a Dr. Doolittle type character in a well-known children's book.
Szabad was, in fact, previously commemorated in the public monument in with a portrait bust at the TOZ (agricultural) colony of Pospieshki. The monument is illustrated in Letzer Ran's Jerusalem of Lithuania. I don't know where this colony was/is, and it is doubtful the monument survives.