The poor old dear doesn’t know the trouble she’s caused. That’s Old Flo, we’re talking about, the Henry Moore statue, officially known as the Draped Seated Woman who has been causing all manner of controversy in Tower Hamlets. If you haven’t followed the debate, accusations and counter accusations that have been flying around over the last week. Here’s a quick summary: Tower Hamlets’ council wants to sell off the sculpture, affectionately nicknamed Old Flo by the residents of the borough’s run down Stifford estate, where the statue stood from 1962, until the estate was knocked down in 1997. The sculpture was sold 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.
Today, the price tag attached to it is £20m. Tower Hamlets’ Lutfur Rahman says that budget cuts, fear of metal theft and the cost of insuring the sculpture make it too costly to keep. In another twist, the sculpture is now not actually in London at all – it has been on loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park since 1997.
Following the Mayor’s announcement, protests, petitions and outrage have followed from the great and the good (the artist’s daughter Mary, film director Danny Boyle and the Tate gallery’s director Sir Nicholas Serota, among others) as well as local residents. Now the Museum of London has announced that it would be happy to offer the sculpture a permanent home in the City or Museum of London Docklands, at West India Quay.
‘The Museum of London’s offer to put Draped Seated Woman on free, public display would enable everyone to enjoy and derive meaning from this significant artwork,’ Museum director Sharon Ament said. An announcement by the council on Flo’s future is expected at any moment. Watch this space. Rebecca Taylor
You can sign a petition to bring the sculpture back to the east end here: change.org. The whole debate got us thinking: what is the point of public sculpture? Could the money be better spent elsewhere? Let us know what you think.