Court Stops Corrupt Mayor Trying to Sell $26 Million Henry Moore Sculpture To Pay Debts

Penelope Curtis at Tate Britain next to Henry Moore's Draped Seated Figure. Photo by Warrick Page/Getty Images.

A London court has decided that Henry Moore’s sculpture Old Flo (also known as Draped Seated Woman, 1957-58) belongs to the council of the East London borough of Tower Hamlets.

The ownership of the statue was called into question in 2013 by the neighboring Bromley Council, after the disgraced former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, announced his plans to sell the artwork at auction to combat government spending cuts.

Bromley Council launched a claim for ownership of the sculpture in order to block its sale at Christie’s London, where it was expected to fetch around £17 million ($26,200,000).

Many public figures supported Bromley Council, and spoke out against the sale, including the sculptor’s daughter, Mary Moore, and Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate.

Now, the court has decided in favor of Tower Hamlets, where a new mayor now presides, following Rahman’s removal from office by the Electoral Commissioner for fraud. Rahman was brought to trial in February as a result of an electoral scandal that saw him steal votes to get into power.

“I want to reiterate my intention to reverse the previous mayor’s decision to sell Henry Moore’s sculpture, Draped Seated Woman,” said John Biggs, the current mayor of Tower Hamlets, as reported by the Independent.“ [The sculpture] belongs to the people of East London and should be available locally for public enjoyment,” he added.

The sculpture was bought in 1962 by the now defunct London County Council for £6,000 ($9,238) as a gift to the people of East London, and sat in the Stifford Estate until 1997, when the estate was demolished. It was then lent to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and remains there on public display.

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