Legal issues add confusion to sale of Old Flo

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Legal issues of ownership have muddied the waters of the potential sale of Henry Moore's Draped Seated Woman.

Representatives from Bromley Council wrote to Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman, who has vowed to auction off the sculpture, challenging his right to sell the statue affectionately-known as Old Flo.

Bromley Council had enlisted the help of museum specialists to conduct detailed archival research and claimed that when the London County Council was abolished in 1963, the ownership of Old Flo was not transferred to Tower Hamlets Council.

Instead, it said the sculpture remained the property of the Greater London Council and, following its abolition, was vested in the GLC's London Residuary Body and transferred to Bromley Council

Sharon Ament, director of the Museum of London, welcomed the claims of Bromley Council to support the venue's bid to host the sculpture for public enjoyment.

"We welcome Bromley's challenge to Tower Hamlets," she said.

"Not only is Bromley asserting that it owns Old Flo, it has also committed to its public display.

"We look forward to working with Bromley and our other campaign partners to make this happen.

"We hope very much that Old Flo will come home to the East End and the museum has offered to cover all the costs, including transport, conservation, security and insurance.

"We welcome any initiative to retain this precious artwork in public ownership."

However, Tower Hamlets Council said it has sought legal opinion which "clearly" identified the borough as the owner of Moore's masterpiece.

Mayor Rahman said: "The ownership of Old Flo is beyond doubt.

"Following the two major London local government reorganisations in 1965 and 1985 there are many examples of assets, including artwork, being transferred with land or houses without being expressly named in the documentation of the time.

"If Bromley owned the sculpture why have they stayed silent for 27 years?

"This move is an insult to the East End as we need the sale proceeds to help alleviate the impact of government cuts by improving housing, preserving local heritage sites and supporting cultural programmes."

Tower Hamlets Borough Council has said it owns the statue, formerly sited in the Stifford Estate, because the estate was transferred to Tower Hamlets borough by the GLC.

It said the statue was an estate amenity expressly enjoyed by and for the Stifford Estate and as it was enjoyed with the land, under law it was transferred with the estate.

In 1985, the council said it was "clearly understood" that Old Flo would be transferred to the Tower Hamlets borough, and the council believes that the sculpture is property "held in connection" with the Stifford Estate and it is therefore irrelevant that it was not specifically named in orders of the time.

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