Following an outcry from the community at Bermondsey Mayor Rahman’s decision to sell the much loved Old Flo sculpture Labour councillors have tabled a motion at next week’s Council meeting demanding he put the sale on hold whilst the offers of an alternative home are explored.
Labour councillors have identified four potential alternative homes for the sculpture since the Mayor first proposed the auction of this valued community asset, yet the Mayor has failed to adequately investigate these options.The Council meeting will be held on the 28th November at 7.30pm at the Town Hall, Mulberry Place, E14 2BG. The meeting is open to the public to attend.
Labour’s Spokesperson for Culture and Heritage, Cllr Denise Jones, said:“Throughout this process the Mayor has constantly refused to consider anything other than selling this work of art. By refusing to look at potential options to house the sculpture locally he is completely ignoring both public opinion and his duty to protect our cultural heritage.”
Labour Councillor Anwar Khan, who is seconding the motion, said: “We accept that there are hard decisions to be made in the current economic climate but it cannot be right that the Mayor is making these decisions without considering all the options. A closed eyes approach to managing the Council is not acceptable, especially when it means that the legitimate concerns of residents are ignored.”
Labour have tabled the motion to be debated at next week’s full Council meeting on the 28th November.
Draped Seated Woman, bought by London County Council from Henry Moore in 1962 and now the property of Tower Hamlets Council, is likely to be sold at auction next year.
The council says it cannot afford to insure the sculpture, due for return from Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has been on loan. It was removed from its original site on the Stifford Estate in 1997, when buildings around it were demolished.
The council cabinet met to consider the options for the future of ‘Old Flo’, which as well as sale by Christie’s included loaning her to Canary Wharf or finding another London site. The Guardian reported that the Cabinet’s decision to explore a sale means the sculpture is now ‘likely to end up in an auction room.’
Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman said he regretted the decision, brought about by recent budget cuts: “We are faced with a stark choice in these times of recession.”
The Henry Moore Foundation, said: “We are familiar with the challenges of displaying Moore’s work outdoors. We do therefore have sympathy with Tower Hamlets’ position, although we think it is very sad that this sculpture may be lost to public display,”
Motion on the sale of Henry Moore Sculpture
Proposer: Denise Jones , Seconder: Anwar Khan
This council believes: That the sculpture Draped Seated Woman (‘Old Flo’) belongs to the people of Tower Hamlets and should be retained by the council and displayed in a public place in Tower Hamlets
That the sculpture was sold at a discounted price to the London County Council by the artist Henry Moore because he believed that art is beneficial, and should be accessible, to all, including the East End’s working class, not just those rich enough to be able to afford to own it.
That Moore based the sculpture on his Wartime Shelter drawings of East End resident sheltering in the Central Line at Liverpool Street and elsewhere, and this gives the sculpture even greater connection to the people of East London, where thousands of people died during the war and 172 were killed in the Bethnal Green tube disaster.
That the council should respect the wishes of the artist that it should be displayed for public enjoyment as a symbol of peace.
That the sculpture is part of Tower Hamlets’ cultural and heritage legacy and once sold will leave a void in that legacy
This Council further believes: That despite the huge funding challenges facing the Council, a £5-20million capital receipt from this sale will make little impact on a £44million deficit predicted in 2016/17.
As a capital receipt this money cannot in the long-term be used to fund on-going service provision, or fill the gap created by Government cuts.
That the Mayor tried to sell the sculpture when he was Leader of the Council, before the Council faced its current budget cuts, and so he cannot claim that this is his motivation
That the Mayor’s claims that the sculpture cannot be safely returned to Tower Hamlets have been proved to be untrue, as a number of organisations – including the Museum of London at Docklands, Queen Mary University, the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields and a local school – have all offered to house it in publicly accessible places, with other organisations including the Art Fund and Whitechapel Gallery offering their expertise in transporting and maintaining the sculpture
That the relocation of the sculpture in Tower Hamlets could be a boost to tourism in the borough, and bring economic benefit to local businesses
That the Council owns numerous pieces of public art that could be at risk of sale after the decision to sell this sculpture.
That, whilst housing, education and health are important priorities, they should not be at the expense of the cultural wellbeing of the borough and its residents.
The council resolves: To condemn the Mayor’s proposed sale of the sculpture, to request that he halts it and secures its return to public display in Tower Hamlets, either on Council land or at one of the institutions which have offered to hou