Moore’s ‘Draped Lady’ may now be sold off by Tower Hamlets council

The controversial plan to sell off a Henry Moore sculpture gifted to the people of London’s East End which may be worth �20 million could now go ahead.

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman told his cabinet last night to “explore options to sell” the sculpture because the council needs the money.

Moore’s 1957 ‘Draped Seated Woman’ would be sold to raise cash for “local heritage projects” and schemes including housing and “improving opportunities and prospects for youngsters.”

The sculpture was bought by the former London County Council in 1960 for �6,000 and erected on Stepney’s new Stifford housing estate. But the estate was demolished 15 years ago and the artwork has been stored in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park since.

The council feared metal thieves could steal the 8ft bronze work for its scrap if it was brought back and displayed in public.

But last night’s decision has angered opposition councillors.

“It’s part of the culture of the East End,” said Tory group leader Peter Golds. “It could be erected at the entrance to the Town Hall if it’s too risky to be displayed in the open.”

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Mayor Rahman insisted the cash was needed in the face of the �100m cuts being imposed in Tower Hamlets by the government.

A Town Hall statement after the meeting said: “The council finds itself being forced to make hard decisions. We do not have the funds to insure or upkeep the work. Releasing these funds will enable us to support front line services.

The council looked at displaying the sculpture in a public park, it added, but “insurance and threat of vandalism would be too expensive.”

Suggestions have been put forward that Moore’s ‘Draped Lady’ could be erected in Victoria Park, but there are fears this would be targeted by thieves. Other suggestions include Canary Wharf with its stringent security, or even the Tate Modern gallery if Tower Hamlets can’t get it insured.