Henry Moore sculpture debate

Art expert Louisa Buck if the sculpture was to be auctioned would be "unlikely to make £20m"

There are two sides to the argument as to whether Tower Hamlets Council should sell their Henry Moore sculpture, Draped Seated Woman.

The Over My Dead Body brigade argues that to sell this work to raise a small amount of money in the context of the overall budget is short sighted and irresponsible and sets an unwelcome precedent.

They have also pointed out that it would be against the "spirit" of the original deal with the artist, which was to sell the work to the council at a knock-down price on the understanding that it went on display in the borough.

The Sell It Now side - led by Luftur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets - could argue that it's been against the spirit of the original deal for the work not to have been on display in the borough for the past 15 years, and instead choosing to decamp the object to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

They might say that those who now profess to be so concerned about the sculpture being on show in Tower Hamlets had all this time to find a safe and appropriate location.

Two alternative locations in the capital have now been offered - the Museum of London and Queen Mary University of London.

The Sell It Now advocates would also argue that they are within their rights to sell the work - and that the money raised could be put to other uses that would be of greater benefit to the residents of Tower Hamlets, who they could argue hardly appeared to love the sculpture when it was in the borough before when it was covered with graffiti and paint.

Either way it would seem optimistic that the work might fetch £20 million, which makes one wonder what price Tower Hamlets would consider selling it for.

Or, put another way, at what point does it make financial sense to Mayor Rahman to sell the piece and change his mind, retaining it within the borough as a financial and social asset.

Will Gompertz Article written by Will Gompertz Will Gompertz Arts editor

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