London Mayor joins bid to stop Tower Hamlets selling Moore’s ‘Old Flo’

Boris Johnson has today joined the groundswell protest to stop Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman putting Henry Moore’s ‘Draped Seated Woman’ sculpture known as ‘Old Flo’ under the auctioneer’s hammer.

The London Mayor welcomed Bromley Council asserting legal ownership and pledging not to sell the artwork given to the people of the East End by the former London County Council in 1962.

He joined the protest by the Art Fund, Museum of London Docklands, Tate Gallery, Henry Moore Foundation and Bethnal Green MP Rushana Ali who raised the controversial sale in the Commons yesterday.

Boris said: “It’s only right that Old Flo is given a public home to help enrich the lives of those around her, just as Henry Moore intended.”

Bromley Council has written to Mayor Rahman challenging ownership. Its leader, Cllr Stephen Carr, last night committed to displaying Old Flo “for the public benefit.”

He said: “The idea that selling it will somehow tackle Tower Hamlets’ financial situation is flawed—the money would not protect frontline services very long and would stop future generations appreciating this national treasure.”

His challenge came after the museum followed a paper trail back to the 1960s when Moore created the sculpture at cost price and waived consultation and transport fees to have it put up on Stepney’s Stifford Estate. It was not transferred to Tower Hamlets when the LCC was abolished in 1965, but remained the property of the new GLC until its own abolition in 1986 and passed to the London Residuary Body, the museum pointed out. The sculpture was later transferred to Bromley, it found.

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The museum has offered to house the sculpture and pay to shift it back from Yorkshire where it has been stored for 15 years.

But Tower Hamlets refutes that Bromley has any right to the asset. The 1962 minutes of the LCC authorised the sculpture for the Stifford Estate which later transferred to Tower Hamlets, the council points out.

But the Art Fund charity says the list of assets transferred to Tower Hamlets did not include ‘Old Flo’. Tower Hamlets failed to prove ownership, so the charity’s lawyers say the sale cannot go ahead.