Henry Moore's 'Old Flo' could return to London as High Court rules Tower Hamlets owns it - but new mayor won't sell

Draped Seated Woman could be on her way back to London

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The Independent Culture

Victory at last? East London will hang onto Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Woman sculpture, better known as “Old Flo”, after an arguably filibustering battle over its ownership resulted in the shelving of plans for it to be sold to plug a council’s funding gap.

Yesterday the High Court ruled that Tower Hamlets Council - yes, the one that wanted to sell the statue back in 2013 — is legally its owner and not Bromley Council which had contested its claim in order to block the auction by Christie's which was expected to fetch up to £17 million.

But after a lengthy legal battle the sale of the artwork, which was bought by London County Council for £6,000 in 1962, has been abandoned and the work, which is currently being borrowed by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, may yet make a return to the British capital.

Lutfur Rahman, former mayor of Tower Hamlets, had masterminded the sale in order to help finance the council's £100 million funding shortfall by 2015. But having been removed from office by the Election Commissioner in April after being found guilty of corrupt and illegal practises, Rahman’s plan for Old Flo will not be carried out by his successors.

Newly elected Labour mayor, John Biggs, says: “I want to reiterate my intention to reverse the previous mayor’s decision to sell Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman.” He went on to add that the sculpture “belongs to the people of east London and should be available locally for public enjoyment”.

Plans for the sale had drawn vocal opposition from prominent figures in the British art world, including film-maker Danny Boyle, Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota and the artist's daughter Mary Moore.

The artwork was originally sold to the council by Moore at a below-market price with the understanding that it would be placed in east London.

It has been on loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the last 15 years.

However, Tower Hamlets is not alone in selling artworks. In 2011 Bolton Council put up 35 works of art to be sold from artists including Millais, Picasso and Hutchison, while in 2006 Bury Council raised £1.4m by selling LS Lowry's A Riverbank.