Say no to the sale of Old Flo

November 21 2012

Image of Say no to the sale of Old Flo

Picture: Art Fund

What a contrast between two councils - in Glasgow, we see the city council joining forces with the National Galleries of Scotland to buy a 'Glasgow Boy' picture for £637k. But in Tower Hamlets, it's full steam ahead with the sale of Henry Moore's sculpture Draped Seated Woman, commonly known as Old Flo. The piece, which was bought by the London County Council at cost in 1962 for the new Stifford housing estate, will be sold at Christie's in February. The money raised will go into general council expenditure - so it's a deaccession of the worst kind. At the moment, the sculpture is at the Yorkshire sculpture park after the demolition of the estate. The Art Fund has launched a campaign to stop the sale.

Over on the Museum of London's website, curator Pat Hardy has helpfully set out the history of Old Flo's arrival in Tower Hamlets:

The LCC felt that such new estates should have works of art in them and they set about sourcing and buying artworks for these new spaces and also for schools and colleges. This was not for purely aesthetic reasons as they made clear ‘the Council has no authority to encourage art for art’s sake or to encourage national art except insofar as it benefits London art’. It was part of the policy to improve Londoners lives and living standards. The new Stifford Estate was a prestigious site and a suitably prestigious sculpture was therefore required to put in it. A work by Henry Moore, at that time an artist of international fame and prestige, must have seemed very appropriate   The LCC in 1962 therefore acquired Draped Seated Woman (Old Flo) and it was installed outside one of the tower blocks called Ewhurst Tower in the Stifford Estate in the spring of 1963. It remained there until the Stifford Estate was demolished in the late 1990s.

The Museum of London has offered to house the sculpture, but the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has spurned the suggestion, and says the sale must go ahead:

We are faced with a stark choice in these times of recession.

Meanwhile, a group of councillors has tabled a motion to stop the sale, to be discussed at the town hall on 28th November at 7.30pm. The meeting is open to the public.

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