Monday, July 13, 2015

Old Flo - the end of the story?

Back in 2012 I wrote Henry Moore Sculpture - a very poor precedent for public art about the proposal by the Mayor of my local Council to sell off the Henry Moore statue which Moore had personally gifted to the East End of London after the Second World War.

I cited six reasons why the proposal was a really bad idea in relation to public ownership of art by famous artists - and this work in particular.

"Old Flo" by Henry Moore
in situ on the Stifford Estate
The statue is officially called 'The Draped Seated Woman' but it has been colloquially called 'Old Flo' for a very long time
Old Flo was a symbol of hope and regeneration after the devastation of bombings in the area caused by WWII.
In brief the statue had originally been located on a GLC housing estate called the Stifford Estate.

That was until 1997 when it went 'on a holiday' to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2014) when the Stifford Estate was demolished.

You can see her enjoying the views in the bracing air up in Yorkshire below!

An Update on Old Flo

Since then four things have happened
  1. The London Borough of Bromley tried to assert its ownership of the statue as the residual legatee of GLC property not defined in transfer documents on the demise of the GLC. Hence it applied for an injunction to stop the sale  - for which we thank Bromley! However it then took action to recover what it saw as its its property - in the absence of paperwork which proved LBTH's ownership.  Tower Hamlets response was to stake its claim of ownership.
  2. The Electoral Court - meeting at the High Court - removed Lutfur Rahman from the office of Mayor. He was found to have "driven a coach and horses" through local authority law and "engaged in corrupt and illegal practices" to win elections. He was banned from holding political office for five years.  So his decision about the sale of Old Flo became largely redundant. See 
  3. A fresh election was run - and a new Mayor was elected - in June 2015. After which point it became clear that a sale would not be pursued.
  4. The High Court found that Tower Hamlets did own the Moore statue after all. Last week the High Court determined that Tower Hamlets do own the statue.

So where will the statue be located in future?

So is this the end of the story?  Is "Old Flo" actually returning to Tower Hamlets?

It certainly seems as if there is some incentive to get the statue back and to find a safe place for it to be displayed.

The new Mayor John Biggs has stated
“I am delighted Tower Hamlets has been confirmed as owner of Old Flo. I want to reiterate my intention to reverse the previous mayor’s decision to sell Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman. I believe that it belongs to the people of east London and should be available locally for public enjoyment.”
... with an emphasis on 'local' and 'people of East London'.

The Museum of London stated
We feel passionately that Henry Moore intended this important artwork for the people of London and particularly the people of Tower Hamlets, which suffered so badly during the Blitz. The reason we opposed the sale so fervently was because it went against the intentions of the artist, and it risked going out of public view forever, into a private collection and possibly even abroad. Sending Old Flo to Yorkshire was the right thing to do at the time, as she had fallen into disrepair, the estate was bulldozed and she needed looking after, but now she's had her holiday, it’s time for her to come back home.

Possible venues include the Museum in Docklands, Canary Wharf and the University of London's Queen Mary College in Mile End.

My vote is for the latter - with a location next to the Canal where she could be seen easily by everybody who walks up and down the Regents Canal.

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