A bronze sculpture by Henry Moore that was the subject of an ownership battle when corrupt former mayor Lutfer Rahman attempted to sell it for millions at auction, has been reinstated in East London. The work of art had been on loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park since 1997. Old Flo, was loaned by the London borough of Tower Hamlets when the housing estate that originally bought it, was demolished.
This work of public art “belongs to the people of East London” – Mayor John Biggs
The sculpture, was bought by London County Council for a mere £6,000 in 1962, and sited at the working class Stifford Estate in east London until 1997, after which the work was loaned to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where It remains on public display at the park in the north of England.
Lutfur Rahman, The former mayor of the east London borough had consigned the work to auction in February 2013. But after evidence that suggested ownership of the sculpture lay with Bromley Council in south London, the sale was postponed due to the Art Fund charity and the Museum of London’s discovery. Rahman was subsequently removed from office in April after being found guilty of wrongdoing by the Election Commissioner.
The Labour mayor, John Biggs, said: “I want to reiterate my intention to reverse the previous mayor’s decision to sell Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman.” The Mayor of Tower Hamlets continued, stating that the work of public art “belongs to the people of east London and should be available locally for public enjoyment”.
Draped Seated Woman created in 1957-8 and cast in 1961 by Moore was a depiction of the artist’s experiences of the blitz in London. It was sold to Tower Hamlets council in the 1960s at a knock-down price as Moore believed art was for everyone. He encouraged this view by locating works in new towns and housing estates that sprang up after bomb damage from World War Two.
Peter Murray, of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, said: “We are sad to say goodbye to Old Flo but pleased the sculpture will continue to be on public display in its new Cabot Square home.” The park, near Wakefield, was founded in 1977 now covers 500 acres and attracts more than 500,000 visitors each year.
Photo: Mayor John Biggs unveils Henry Moor’s Old Flo in new Canary Wharf Location Photo Courtesy The Mayor via Twitter.