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Henry Moore’s ‘Old Flo’ returns to east London after 20-year Yorkshire ‘exile’

PUBLISHED: 09:31 27 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:49 27 September 2017

Henry Moore (inset) and his 'Draped Seated Woman’ or 'Old Flo'. Pictures: Henry Moore Foundation and Tim Archer

Henry Moore (inset) and his 'Draped Seated Woman’ or 'Old Flo'. Pictures: Henry Moore Foundation and Tim Archer

Henry Moore Foundation/Tim Archer

Henry Moore’s treasured ‘Old Flo’ sculpture has finally begun its journey back to east London after 20 years in ‘exile’ in Yorkshire and a four-year legal battle over who owns it.

Old Flo's original home outside Ewhurst House in Stepney's Stifford Estate in 1962. Picture: ELA archiveOld Flo's original home outside Ewhurst House in Stepney's Stifford Estate in 1962. Picture: ELA archive

The one-and-a-half tonne bronze sculpture was lifted off its plinth by a crane at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park yesterday, where it had been in safe keeping since 1997 after demolition of Stepney’s Stifford housing estate where it had been for 35 years.

It goes on public display at its new permanent home at Canary Wharf’s Cabot Square next month, after renovation work.

Moore sculpted his ‘Draped Seated Woman’ in 1957 and sold it to the London County Council at cost price as “a gift for the working people of the East End” to be erected at the new estate in 1962.

But controversy erupted when former Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman wanted to put it on the open market in 2012 for £20 million, which led to protests from the art world, heritage campaigners and leading figures like film producer Danny Boyle and Henry Moore’s own daughter Mary Moore.

Old Flo's temporary home in Yorkshire. Picture: Henry Moore FoundationOld Flo's temporary home in Yorkshire. Picture: Henry Moore Foundation

The issue was even raised in Parliament, forcing Tower Hamlets to withdraw the “fire sale”.

Its ownership was challenged by Bromley Council as “the rightful keeper” of assets held by the London Residuary Body after the Greater London Council, which had taken over from the LCC, was abolished in 1986—despite records showing ‘Old Flo’ was a gift to east London by Moore in 1962.

The Appeal Court finally ruled last year that ‘Old Flo’ belongs to Tower Hamlets Council and the people of east London.

The new mayor, John Biggs, pledged to get it returned and put on permanent public show.

“I am delighted that Old Flo is finally on her way back home to the people of the East End,” he said.

“The previous Mayor tried to sell off Old Flo, a decision which I reversed.

“This is an important part of our cultural heritage, so we have a duty to look after it somewhere safe.”

‘Old Flo’ was outside Ewhurt House tower block in Jamaica Street until the Stifford estate was demolished in 1997 and was then transported to Yorkshire. Now it is coming home after two decades languishing in a country field.

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