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London Borough of Tower Hamlets should stop the sale of Old Flo statue of Henry Moore.
David Franchi – Thursday, 27th December 2012.
“As London Art Reviews we join the campaign to halt the sale of the sculpture.”
The Council of Tower Hamlets is going to put on the market a piece of Henry Moore. Bromley claims to be the owner but Tower Hamlets deny. As London Art Reviews we are against this decision and furthermore there are other ways to arrange the question.
It’s a bit of confusion what is going in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets about art. The Council is suffering for the Government cuts and therefore is decided to put on sale artworks, including the famous Henry Moore‘s sculpture “Draped Seated Woman”, affectionately known as “Old Flo”.
It is a scandal that could involve other councils in the United Kingdom and it rises up doubts about a sort of gold rush in selling public owned artworks.
When the announcement was made, it caused an almighty row and the Art Fund asked lawyers to examine in detail who actually owns “Old Flo”. In October 2012, in fact, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, announced that the council, facing of “unprecedented cuts” planned to sell the 1.6 tonnes work, believing it could achieve £20m at auction. Mayor Lutfur Rahman says that budget cuts, fear of metal theft and the cost of insuring the sculpture make it too expensive to keep.
The Tower Hamlets plan has raised many protests, including the one from a group of famous people, who wrote an open letter to the Observer expressing their concern: “While we understand the financial pressures that Tower Hamlets faces, we feel that the mayor’s proposal goes against the spirit of Henry Moore‘s original sale to London County Council at a favourable price on the understanding that it would be placed in East London.”
The letter is signed by Mary Moore, the artist’s daughter; Richard Calvocoressi, director, Henry Moore Foundation; Nicholas Serota, director, Tate; Danny Boyle, film director and producer; Peter Murray, director, Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow; Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield; David Adjaye, architect; and Jeremy Deller, artist.
The open letter highlighted the problem of the public usability of art pieces. It continues: “The presence of the sculpture in Stepney was a demonstration of the postwar belief that everyone, whatever their background, should have access to works of art of the highest quality. That is why Moore was so delighted to see the work sited as the centrepiece of a housing estate in London’s East End.”
“Old Flo” was, in fact, put on sell to the former London County Council in 1960 by Henry Moore for £6,000 on the condition that it was displayed in a public space for the residents of a socially deprived area.
However, there are new developments of this dispute. New evidence has been presented suggesting that Henry Moore‘s sculpture “Draped Seated Woman” is in fact owned by Bromley.
The work, was acquired by London County Council in 1962 as a gift to the East End generally and the Stifford Estate in Stepney Green specifically. In 1997, when the estate was demolished, she was loaned to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The sculpture has not been displayed in London for the last 15 years. It currently is located in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is not happy to let it go away.
Bromley’s decision follows many hours of detailed archival research conducted by the museum’s specialists and others, finding new great evidence that could stop the sale.
The uncovered paper trail shows that when the London County Council (LCC) was abolished in 1963, the ownership of “Old Flo” was not transferred to Tower Hamlets Council. The sculpture remained instead the property of the Greater London Council (GLC), until its own abolition in 1985. “Old Flo”, along with other former assets of the GLC were collated in the GLC’s London Residuary Body, and transferred to Bromley Council.
However, in a statement Tower Hamlets disputed the findings: “Tower Hamlets council refute that Bromley have any right to the asset. Bromley maintain in their letter that the asset was acquired for Londoners as a whole. However LBTH (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) has checked the minutes of the LCC general purposes committee for 15 May 1962, which authorised the purchase and these specifically state that the statue was “to be sited in Stifford Estate (Stepney).”
As London Art Reviews, we join the campaign to halt the sale of the sculpture. Though understanding the very difficult economic situation in which councils are trapped, we find it is unacceptable that public artworks could be put on sale.