Councils in dispute over Henry Moore sculpture ownership

09:28 20 December 2012

Henry Moore

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962. Picture: Henry Moore Trust

Henry Moore Trust

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman has been challenged over who owns the Henry Moore ‘Draped Seated Woman’ sculpture known as ‘Old Flo’ which he wants to sell in the New Year.

Bromley Council has written to Tower Hamlets over his bid to auction off the sculpture—while Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali has raised the controversy in the Commons in a bid to block the sell-off.

The challenge comes after Museum of London bosses followed a paper trail back to the 1960s when Moore created the sculpture at cost price for the then London County Council and waived consultation and transport fees to have it put up as a gift to the East End on Stepney’s Stifford Estate.

Old Flo was not transferred to Tower Hamlets when the LCC was abolished in 1965, but instead remained the property of the new GLC until its own abolition in 1986 when all assets passed to the London Residuary Body.

The sculpture was then transferred to Bromley, the museum found.

“This is very good news indeed,” said museum director Sharon Ament. “We welcome Bromley’s challenge to Tower Hamlets.

“Bromley has committed to Moore’s statue being on public display. We hope that ‘Old Flo’ will come home to the East End.”

The museum has offered to cover costs of conservation, security, insurance and transporting it back from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has been stored for 15 years, to be displayed at its Docklands site at Canary Wharf.

But Tower Hamlets denies that Bromley Council has any right to the asset. The 1962 minutes of the LCC authorised the purchase of the statue “to be sited in Stifford Estate” where it remained until the estate was demolished.

The estate transferred to Tower Hamlets, the council points out.

MP Rushanara Ali raised the issue in the Commons yesterday when she asked the government to stop the “fire sale”—describing it as “a betrayal of the East End’s working class heritage.”

Mayor Rahman wants Old Flo under the auctioneer’s hammer at Christie’s in February.

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