The much travelled Henry Moore sculpture of a draped woman, is back on public display in east London having survived vandalism, the demolition of her original setting, a custody battle in the courts and attempts by a council to raise cash by auctioning her off.
May I introduce you to “Old Flo” she weighs in at 1.6 tonnes and is worth £20 million. Moore initially donated the sculpture to Tower Hamlets borough in 1962, but has been cavorting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the past 20 years. However in October 2017 she moved here into Cabot Square.
The statue is now sited on private land – though still accessible to the public – as you can see its sited among the towers of Canary Wharf, of course it wasn’t originally intended to be here in the Commercial district of Canary Wharf …. The artist really wanted to bring enjoyment into the heart of a council estate.
Recently the current Mayor of Tower Hamlets – John Biggs said he was delighted to have “Old Flo back as its important to the borough’s history and heritage
Biggs’s predecessor as mayor, Lutfur Rahman –was forced from office after being found guilty of electoral fraud – was determined to sell the sculpture through a Christie’s auction for an estimated £20m.
He insisted the council could not afford to pay for its security and insurance, and needed the money to help plug a yawning budget deficit. One of Biggs’s first decisions was to cancel the sale.
By then, Old Flo had been on holiday among the green fields of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for many years, moved there for safe keeping in the late 1990s, after her original home in the Stifford housing estate, Stepney, was demolished.
Moore made the towering sculpture in 1957, partly drawing on his memories of the bundled figures taking shelter in the London Blitz.
Other versions of the sculpture are scattered across the world, including Israel and Australia, but in 1962 the artist, a socialist and keenly interested in the siting of public art, sold the 1.6 tonnes of bronze to the London county council at cost price, £7,000, as the centrepiece of the new estate.
The announcement of the sale in 2012 provoked outrage, with protests from thousands of local residents, backed by art experts including Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate at the time.
The Museum of London offered to give the sculpture space and protection, the Art Fund charity took up the case, and Bromley council claimed ownership through the tangled waves of successive local government reorganisation in London.
In 2015 the high court ruled that it did indeed belong to Tower Hamlets, but by then regime change had happened and the threatened sale was off.
Old Flo’s return was slightly delayed by Storm Brian, when gale force gusts forced the postponement of the installation. It was craned into place on Tuesday night, and will remain at Cabot Square in Canary Wharf, whose owners have promised a comprehensive programme of public events to celebrate its arrival, for at least five years.
Sourced the guardian