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Boris joins call to save Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' from auctioneer's hammer

PUBLISHED: 16:16 08 November 2012

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962

Henry Moore Trust

Boris Johnson has joined the public outcry over the Mayor of Tower Hamlets' decision last night to sell off the Henry Moore's 'Draped Seated Woman' sculpture given as a gift to the people of the East End 50 years ago.

The London Mayor had previously written to Lutfur Rahman supporting the Museum of London Dockland’s plea for the bronze artwork—known as ‘Old Flo’—to be loaned to them for public display, it has emerged.

“The decision to sell this iconic work is extremely disappointing,” said Boris.

“I appreciate the council needs to deal with the prevailing economic climate—but more could be done to enable the work to remain in east London.

“The museum has offered ‘Old Flo’ a home and it will be a tragedy if nothing can be done to make sure it goes back on public display in the East End as Henry Moore originally intended.”

He urged Lutfur Rahman to “reconsider and give more time to find a solution.”

The 1.5 tonne artwork thought to be worth up to £20m is being sold off at Christie’s, Mayor Rahman decided last night.

He told his cabinet: “We have huge savings to make—the government has forced us into lean times.

“I act with a heavy heart—but this is the position we’ve been put in.”

The money will go into “art, housing and heritage projects.”

He is aiming to get it included in Christie’s catalogue before the end of the year.

Labour’s Heritage Spokesperson Denise Jones said: “The mayor refused to listen to residents’ views—it shows how closed-minded he is.”

Offers had been received to house the sculpture from the Museum of London Docklands, Queen Mary College—and even Bethnal Green’s Morpeth Secondary School.

The Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali said later: “This is a betrayal of the East End’s working class heritage. The sale will only make a small contribution to the council’s budget, but also raises serious concerns about the Mayor’s wasteful use of public money to fund his extravagant lifestyle.”

Film maker Danny Boyle, who dreamed up the Olympics opening ceremony, was among nine leading figures signing an open letter last week urging Mayor Rahman not to sell off the sculpture.

It went “against the spirit of Moore’s original sale on the understanding that it would be placed in East London,” the letter said.

Others signing the letter included the late artist’s daughter Mary Moore, MP Rushanara Ali, Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, Henry Moore Foundation director Richard Calvocoressi and Tate Gallery director Nicholas Serota.

Moore’s sculpture was erected in 1962 in Jamaica Street where it remained until Stepney’s Stifford housing estate was pulled down in 1997 when it was sent for “safe keeping” to Yorkshire.

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