Local councils battled for her, a disgraced mayor tried to sell her and Storm Brian almost toppled her. Now Henry Moore’s ‘Draped Seat Woman’ has at long last returned to London’s east end after holidaying in the green hills of Yorkshire.
The 1.6 tonne bronze sculpture, known to her fans as ‘Old Flo’, was created by Moore in 1957 and acquired by London County Council in 1962 as a gift to London’s east end. The artist sold the work at a bargain rate of £7,000 to the council on the condition that it was to be kept on public display in the borough. Placed in the Stifford housing estate in Stepney Green, ‘Old Flo’ was loaned to Yorkshire Sculpture Park when the estate was demolished in 1997.
Former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, sought to sell ‘Old Flo’ at auction in 2012 for an estimated £20 million in order to plug a hole in the borough’s budget. Rahman’s plan outraged several high profile arts campaigners including former Tate director Nicholas Serota, film director Danny Boyle and Moore’s daughter Mary. To thwart the Christie’s sale, Bromley Council filed a lawsuit claiming ownership of the sculpture.
The protracted legal battle that ensued was finally resolved in 2016 after the Court of Appeal upheld a 2015 ruling by the High Court, which determined Tower Hamlets was the legal owner. By the time the Court of Appeal reached its decision, Rahman was removed from office after being found guilty of electoral fraud.
Newly elected mayor, John Biggs, resolved to return ‘Old Flo’ back to the people of east London. On Tuesday (24 October), after gale force winds from Storm Brian delayed her installation, 2.5m tall ‘Old Flo’ was hoisted into her new home in Cabot Square, Canary Wharf. She was officially unveiled on Wednesday (25 October).