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Inquiry to decide future of Henry Moore legacy

THE FUTURE of one of Britain's most important artistic legacies will be decided at a public inquiry starting today in a small village hall in Hertfordshire.

Under the auspices of debating the technicalities of the East Hertfordshire district plan, the daughter of the late sculptor Henry Moore and the man who runs the Henry Moore Foundation, Sir Alan Bowness, a former director of the Tate Gallery, will argue for their different visions of how the artist's studios, workshops, sculptures and drawings should be developed.

Sir Alan and Mary Moore, the sculptor's only child, are no longer on speaking terms.

Sir Alan will today appeal against a prior decision by Hertfordshire County Council rejecting the foundation's application for planning permission to build a reception centre, study and conservation building in the grounds of Moore's old home at Perry Green, near Much Hadham.

But beneath today's discussion on the East Hertfordshire local plan is a battle both legal and psychological between Ms Moore and the foundation.

A High Court case is pending in which she is suing the foundation for all Moore's work completed since 1977, 359 of its 660 sculptures, 880 drawings and 6,000 graphic works.

As for the future of Perry Green, the foundation wants it to become a public museum open properly to tourists, and wishes to build a study and reception centre designed by architects Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones. Following previous objections by Ms Moore the foundation has already dropped one of its key plans - for a sculpture gallery.

Ms Moore wants it to be left as her father worked in it until his death in 1986.

A psychological insight into the dispute occurred this summer when Sir Alan invited a group of journalists to Perry Green for lunch to discuss the foundation's future. He said cryptically at one point when asked about Ms Moore that 'only daughters' could become very obsessive, particularly if born late in the father's life.

He added that while Ms Moore was clearly disappointed not to be playing a role in the foundation her father had set up, Moore did not want his daughter to be a trustee of the foundation.

It is a claim Ms Moore has vigorously denied, pointing out that she has a letter signed by her father expressing a wish to the contrary.

She also accuses Sir Alan of personalising an issue which she sees as the safeguarding of her father's aesthetic wishes.

Ms Moore will be at today's hearing with her husband, an art dealer. And it is understood she will be called to speak during the inquiry by the Department of Environment inspector.

The public inquiry is being watched with interest and anxiety by the art world.

Johanna Darke, who chairs the Public Monuments And Sculpture Association, said yesterday: 'To build a visitors' centre, however sensitively, with the large number of visitors it would attract, might interrupt the tranquillity and rather charming domestic feel of the place.

'But we do feel that there is a large amount of material inside not so easily accessible to the public or to students and that could possibly be moved to somewhere more accessible, perhaps the Henry Moore sculpture study centre at Leeds.'

(Photograph omitted)