Henry Moore, Draped Seated Woman, 1957-8. Courtesy of London Borough Tower Hamlets and reproduced by permission of the Henry Moore Foundation. Photo: Jonty Wilde

Old Flo sale could be dropped by new mayor

Rebecca Atkinson, 22.06.2015
John Biggs has pledged to save Henry Moore sculpture
The controversial sale of a Henry Moore sculpture by Tower Hamlets Council could be dropped following the election of the borough’s new mayor last week.

John Biggs
was elected as Labour major on 11 June. His predecessor Lutfur Rahman was found guilty of systematic and widespread electoral fraud and removed from office.

One of Biggs’s mayoral pledges was to “keep the borough's Henry Moore sculpture, Old Flo, in the council's ownership and return it to Tower Hamlets as part of a broader cultural strategy”.

The sculpture, which is officially titled Draped Seated Woman and currently on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), was scheduled for auction in February 2013.

But the sale was postponed after the Art Fund and the Museum of London discovered evidence that suggested ownership of the sculpture lay with Bromley Council.

The case was heard by the high court earlier this year, but a judgement has not yet been made.

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said that it was waiting for the outcome of the high court case before making any decision on the artwork’s future.

Old Flo was bought from the artist by London County Council for £6,000 in 1962 and displayed at the Stifford Estate in Tower Hamlets until 1997, when it went to YSP on long-term loan.

Tower Hamlet’s Council said in 2012 that the sale would help offset £100m of budget cuts. The option of displaying the sculpture in a public place in London was ruled out due to the “unreasonable” cost of insuring the work and the threat of vandalism.

The Museum of London has offered to display Old Flo outside the Museum of London Docklands.

“The judge still has to decide on ownership between the two boroughs, but it’s a huge relief that one of Moore’s most important works has been saved,” said Sharon Ament, the director of the Museum of London.

“It’s estimated that there is more than £100m of public art in London from the same era as Old Flo, and we have avoided a precedent being set, which might have encouraged cash-strapped local authorities to sell public art to the highest bidder.”

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