Bromley Council disputes Henry Moore sculpture ownership

Draped Seated Woman Old Flo was placed in the Stifford Estate in Tower Hamlets and moved to Yorkshire after the demolition of the estate in the 1990s

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The planned sale of a Henry Moore sculpture has prompted a row between two London councils over its ownership.

Tower Hamlets Council plans to sell Draped Seated Woman to offset the impact of government cuts.

But Bromley Council has said the sculpture belongs to Londoners as it was bought by London County Council in the 1960s to be placed in east London.

Tower Hamlets said the statue was transferred to the council during local government reorganisation.

The artwork, known as Old Flo, was loaned to Yorkshire Sculpture Park after the Stifford Estate, the Tower Hamlets housing estate in which it was housed, was demolished in the late 1990s.

'National treasure'

Start Quote

London Borough of Tower Hamlets has checked the minutes of the LCC General Purposes Committee for 15 May 1962 which authorised the purchase”

End Quote Council statement

In a letter to Tower Hamlets, Bromley Council said the sculpture became the property of the Greater London Council when that authority replaced London County Council. And it said it remained in the ownership of the GLC until its dissolution in 1985, after which it was transferred to Bromley.

Stephen Carr, leader of Bromley Council, said: "This sculpture must remain in public ownership which is line with the original principles of Henry Moore himself.

"The idea that selling this internationally recognised sculpture will somehow tackle the financial situation facing Tower Hamlets is flawed. Local authorities need to face financial reality and look at the longer-term challenges.

"The monies raised would not protect frontline services for very long and would stop future generations appreciating this national treasure."

'Cavalier plans'

But a statement from Tower Hamlets said: "Tower Hamlets Council refute that Bromley have any right to the asset.

"Bromley maintain in their letter that the asset was acquired for Londoners as a whole.

"However LBTH [London Borough of Tower Hamlets] has checked the minutes of the LCC General Purposes Committee for 15 May 1962 which authorised the purchase and these specifically state that the statue was "to be sited in Stifford Estate (Stepney)".

"There is no dispute between any of the parties that the Stifford Estate transferred to LBTH during local government reorganisation."

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said following Bromley Council's claim "Tower Hamlets's cavalier plans" must be halted.

Tower Hamlets said it had to make the decision to sell the artwork as the cost of insuring it "proved to be unreasonable".

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