We reported on 8 October that a Henry Moore sculpture titled Draped Seated Woman was to be sold by Tower Hamlets council to pay for frontline services. The work of art was originally sold by Moore, an active Socialist, at a fraction of its market value, on the understanding that it would be displayed in a public space to enrich the lives of those living in a socially deprived area. The artist felt it would be part of urban re-generation in the East End and become a permanent part of its cultural heritage.
Known locally as ‘Old Flo’ it was created by Henry Moore in 1957 and acquired in 1960 by the London County Council for the new Stifford housing estate at Stepney Green. It was loaned to Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 1997, when the Stifford estate was demolished. When the GLC was abolished in 1986, ownership of the sculpture passed to the new Greater London Council in 1965, then to Tower Hamlets. In October this year, Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced his decision to sell the sculpture after “unprecedented” budget cuts.
The creator of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Danny Boyle has joined the artist’s daughter, Mary Moore, artists Rachel Whiteread and Jeremy Deller, Tate Director, Nicholas Serota and other leading figures in a campaign to stop Tower Hamlets Council selling a celebrated sculpture by Henry Moore to ease local budget cuts.
Danny Boyle said: “The value of art is diminished by being monetarised. The Opening Ceremony, which I was proud to direct as a Tower Hamlets resident, featured Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles in a frontispiece to the programme. His idea was to create a piece of art that no one could own. Rachel Whiteread’s House (let’s rebuild it please) was another fine example of what could have been in Tower Hamlets permanently and would have enriched the borough and all who came to see it. The Moore sculpture defies all prejudice in people’s minds about one of London’s poorest boroughs. That alone makes it priceless to every resident. Let’s put it in the Olympic Park alongside the Bradley Wiggins Bell!”
An open letter to the Observer led by the artist’s daughter, Danny Boyle and other leading figures, made the point that: “The presence of the sculpture in Stepney was a demonstration of the post-war 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.
We appreciate that times have changed and that the costs of protecting the sculpture are demanding, but we believe that there are a number of sites in the borough where the work could be safely sited for the benefit of the community towards whom Henry Moore made such a generous gesture.” The value of the sculpture has been estimated from £5m to £20m.