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Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' withdrawn from Christie's auction by Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 17:10 21 December 2012

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962. Picture: Henry Moore Trust

Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' erected in Stepney in 1962. Picture: Henry Moore Trust

Henry Moore Trust

Henry Moore's 'Draped Seated Woman' sculpture known as 'Old Flo' has been formally withdrawn by Tower Hamlets council from a controversial auction in February because of a challenge over ownership, it has emerged this evening (Fri).

Lawyers for the Arts Fund charity had asked Christie’s to withdraw it because Bromley Council now claims it owns the artwork that Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman wants to put under the auctioneer’s hammer.

The challenge from Bromley came after the Museum of London followed a paper trail tracing the sculpture back to the 1960s when Moore sold it at cost price to the-then London County Council and waived consultation and transport fees to have it put up on Stepney’s Stifford Estate.

It was not transferred to the new Tower Hamlets authority when the LCC or its successor GLC were abolished, says the museum, but remained an asset of the London Residuary Body, then later transferred to Bromley as custodians.

Bromley Council leader Stephen Carr said: “The idea that selling this national treasure will somehow tackle Tower Hamlets’ financial situation is flawed—the money would not protect frontline services very long.”

Tower Hamlets Mayor Rahman today refuted Bromley’s claim, citing “many examples” of artwork transferred without being expressly named.

He said: “This move is an insult to the East End. If Bromley owned it, why have they stayed silent for 27 years?”

The statue was an amenity, he insists, so “under law was automatically transferred” with the estate.

Lawyers are being briefed on both sides, including a top QC hired by Tower Hamlets council, ready for any possible High Court battle in the New Year.

Bethnal Green & Bow MP Rushanara Ali raised the controversy in the Commons on Monday in a bid to block the sell-off, citing it as “a betrayal of the East End’s working class.”

The Museum of London Docklands has offered to pay for security, insurance and transporting Old Flo back from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has been stored for 15 years to be exhibited at Canary Wharf.

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