London council reverses plan to sell Henry Moore sculpture

LONDON (AP) — Old Flo may be coming home.

A London borough mayor said Wednesday he would reverse a decision to sell a Henry Moore sculpture at the center of a heated legal dispute, and re-erect the 8-foot (2.5-meter) bronze figure in the city’s East End.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs said the sculpture “belongs to the people of east London and should be available locally for public enjoyment.”

His statement followed a High Court judge’s ruling Wednesday that the Tower Hamlets borough owns Moore’s “Draped Seated Woman,” nicknamed Old Flo. It stood for years outside a public housing project in the east London borough, one of Britain’s poorest areas.

After the cash-strapped local council announced plans to sell Old Flo in 2012, another London borough claimed it was the rightful owner and took the case to court.

In the meantime, Biggs’ predecessor, Lutfur Rahman, was removed from office in April after being convicted of electoral fraud. Rahman had argued the sale was needed to offset spending cuts from the British government.

Moore, one of Britain’s best-known 20th-century artists, created “Draped Steated Woman” in 1957, partly inspired by images of Londoners sheltering from the Blitz.

He made six casts of the sculpture, with versions going to Brussels, Melbourne, Jerusalem, Wuppertal in Germany and Yale University in Connecticut. He sold the sixth to London’s now-abolished county council in 1960 for a low price in order to enrich the lives of East Enders.

When the public housing complex was torn down in the 1990s, the sculpture was moved to a sculpture park in northern England.

Artists, Moore’s daughter and London Mayor Boris Johnson all opposed the borough’s plan to sell the sculpture, whose value has been estimated at between 5 million and 20 million pounds ($7.7 million and $31 million).

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