Art Fund’s Legal Challenge Over Henry Moore Sculpture Sale

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has without success pleaded with Mayor Lutfur Rahman, to reverse the decision to sell a £20m Henry Moore sculpture, known locally as ‘Old Flo’. The council insists the decision was made with “regret”, because it must find an extra £100m in the next two years or cut essential services.

The sale will now be delayed in a last ditch attempt to prove that Tower Hamlets Council is not the sole owner of the work of art but only a guardian. They have pointed out this grey area in paperwork and now solicitors working on behalf of the Art Fund will mount a legal challenge over who owns the bronze. As it transpires, the work was bought by Greater London Council for £7500 in 1962. The GLC was abolished in 1986 by Mrs Thatcher. The charity claimed the ownership did not automatically transfer to Tower Hamlets Council, in east London.  A statement reads: “Our research suggests that works of public art were handled separately from land and buildings when both the London County Council and the Greater London Council were dissolved. “For this reason our lawyers have been in touch with the Council to ask for more information, which they have so far failed to provide.” Tower Hamlets retorted with a statement on Thursday, describing the Art Fund’s move as a “desperate PR stunt”. It is obvious that Mayor Rahman is surprised and angered by the move, which will cost a fortune in legal bills that the council does not have. The result could go either way and the big looser could be Tower Hamlets.

It added the council, “should not have to choose between keeping a valuable cultural asset or funding local heritage projects, affordable housing and keeping its community safe”. Rahman said: “I have a duty to ensure residents do not suffer the brunt of the horrendous cuts.”

The Art Fund has said the question of who owns Draped Seated Woman is “the most fundamental issue to be addressed before any sale can take place.” So far, 2,500 people have signed a petition against the sale including the Oscar winning Director Danny Boyle and Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota. The sculpture is currently on loan to Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield after it was vandalised with graffiti when situated in the Stifford Estate in Tower Hamlets.”This work is part of London’s history” and should be reinstated back in London”; Richard Calvocoressi, director of the Henry Moore Foundation stated in a radio interview last week.


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