Daughter in new court battle over sculptor's legacy

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The Independent Online

Works worth millions of pounds by Britain's most famous sculptor, Henry Moore, were at the centre of a new dispute yesterday as the sculptor's daughter renewed her High Court battle for their control.

Mary Spencer Moore, who is acting under her married name Mary Danowski, is appealing against a High Court judgment that passed ownership of her father's works to the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green, Hertfordshire.

In 1993, Ms Danowski was left facing six-figure court costs after failing in an attempt to claim pounds 200m of her father's sculptures and drawings from the trust he set up in the final years of his life.

In 1976, she and her mother had helped Moore set up the foundation to safeguard and promote appreciation of his work. A year later, and until his death aged 88 in 1986, the sculptor became an employee of the foundation's trading arm, HMF Enterprises, because of his worries about tax liabilities.

The foundation was given his personal collection, and for the final 10 years of his life paid him a pounds 45,000-a-year salary. In return his works from that time became the property of the trust.

Lord Irvine QC, representing Ms Danowski, 48, told the Court of Appeal yesterday that the argument centred on the ownership of the works created during that period.

"It is a pity that a major dispute such as this has arisen over one of the country's greatest artists of the century and the body set up to protect his artistic legacy. But such a dispute has arisen, and we owe it to the artist that the dispute is correctly resolved," Lord Irvine said.

He said that Ms Danowski claimed that all her father's artist's copies of his works were his personal property and became part of his personal estate after his death.

Lord Irvine said the case was of great importance to the art world because of the challenge it presented to the Artist's Copy Convention. The question to be answered was how far artistic freedom could be breached by "contractual fetters". Under the unwritten convention, sculptors are allowed to produce up to two versions of a limited edition which then become their own property to be disposed of as they wish.

Moore used to give these to his family, but after 1977 gave the artist's copies to the foundation. According to Lord Irvine, the foundation claimed that because Moore was an employee of HMF Enterprises, he had given up his rights to artists' copies and from the very moment of creation, everything he produced became the property of the company.

At the High Court in 1993, Mr Justice Evans-Lombe ruled against Ms Danowski and held that the 1977 agreement stated plainly that ownership of all works, including artist's copies, was vested in the company.

The case continues today.