Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Old Flo is an East Ender and she ain’t going nowhere.

By on July 9, 2015 in News

Henry Moore’s sculpture Draped Seated Woman – better known as Old Flo – does belong to Tower Hamlets and is not for sale.

So hands off.

Reclining_Figure_at_Yorkshire_Sculpture_Park_-_geograph.org.uk_-_519117

Photo of Old Flo in Yorkshire courtesy David Sands. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Old Flo belongs to the people of east London

“I am delighted Tower Hamlets has been confirmed as the owner of ‘Old Flo’. I want to reiterate my intention to reverse the previous mayor’s decision to sell Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman, ” said Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs. “I believe that it belongs to the people of east London and should be available locally for public enjoyment.”

Long story short the previous mayor of the Borough – anyone remember his name? No? Oh well – back in 2012 this geezer tried to flog Old Flo to make a few bob as he liked to do with any public assets which took his fancy.

By ‘few bob’ we mean £20 million. He said he was being forced to do this because he and his mates all wanted shiny new cars to offset budget cuts blah blah blah.

Utter bollocks natch.

Some arty farty stuff

The entire LW Art Critic Department is on long term leave at the moment but they left this note about the significant of ‘Old Flo’:

We have never really understood the significance of ‘Old Flo’ until we looked at this particular work by Henry Moore, Woman Seated in the Underground 1941, and it made our blood run cold.

The fear and resilience of this solitary woman contrasted to the resilience of Old Flo illustrates the resilience of those who endured the London blitz.

‘Woman Seated in the Underground’ is even more poignant the day after the anniversary of the 7/7  bombings on the London Underground.

There is a direct connection between the woman sketched by Moore in 1941 and those who waited in the dark for rescue after the bomb blasts 60 years later.

Ooh er! Deep. All a bit high brow innit?

Betrayal of the East End’s working class heritage

“The sculpture belongs to the people of the East End and should remain in public ownership and be available for everyone to enjoy as Henry Moore intended it, ” said MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali according to a report in the East London Advertiser at the time.

“This is a betrayal of the East End’s working class heritage. The sale will only make a small contribution to the council’s budget and raises serious concerns about the Mayor’s wasteful use of public money to fund his extravagant lifestyle.”

Old Flo’s home is the Stifford

After the devastation of the blitz between 1956 and 1964 the London County Council organised the commission or purchase of over 70 works of art to improve the cultural life of Londoners.

One of these works was Old Flo and it was decided to install this on the 1,300 acre Stifford Estate in Stepney which was then being built.

At the time the three Stifford Estate tower blocks were regarded as a prime example of modern architecture, and were visited by Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in July 1962.

When the LCC was abolished in 1963 ownership of Old Flo passed to the Greater London Council (GLC) and then when that was abolished in 1985 ownership passed to Tower Hamlets.

But because of demolition works on the Stifford Estate and worries about the sculpture being vandalised it was loaned to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it has been ever since – see photo above.

An excellent detailed timeline of these events can be found on the ArtFund site.

Nice work Bromley

When the ex-Mayor came up with his scam scheme to flog Old Flo Bromley Council claimed ownership of Old Flo as when the London borough of Tower Hamlets was formed in 1962 and the Stifford Estate and its assets was transferred into the newly formed borough Old Flo was not listed in the order.

Bromley Council’s claim was that as Old Flo was not specifically listed in the transfer order it remained the property of the GLC until 1996 and so when the remaining assets of the the GLC were transferred to Bromley in 1996 it belonged to them.

Bromley council pledged not to sell Old Flo but to put it on public display according to it’s original purpose.

It seems more than likely that the real reason for Bromley council claiming ownership of Old Flo was to prevent it from being flogged off the back of a lorry by the ex-Mayor – nice work Bromley! But you know it belongs to the East End so.. come visit though!

Old Flo is not for sale

Yesterday Tower Hamlets council was declared to be the legal owner of Old Flo and the new mayor (who shall be named) John Biggs has said it is not for sale.

Moore created Old Flo to reflect his wartime experiences of the blitz in London and so it seems more than fitting for her to come back to the East End and once again sit where the bombs once fell.

For more information

 


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There Are 3 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Richard Desmond says:

    It would be good to have the Sacrifice of Isaac by Agostino Beltrano back too last I heard it was in storage awaiting sale.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/sacrifice-of-isaac-133385

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