Museum brings to life history of Old Flo
After much political debate about the future of Old Flo, the story of how the Henry Moore sculpture came into being has been put on show by a venue striving to preserve her future.
The exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, entitled Henry Moore And The East End, delves into the story of the Tower Hamlets statue, officially known as Draped Seated Woman, by showcasing a variety of the sculptor's drawings, maquettes and plaster models, as well as bringing visitors up-to-date with its potential sale.
The statue was gifted to the Stifford Estate in the East End but has been on loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the past 15 years and late last year, Mayor Lutfur Rahman made the controversial decision to sell Old Flo to raise funds for the borough.
This prompted outrage from councillors, residents and the museum. Consequently, the sale was delayed and the Museum Of London Docklands offered to host the sculpture.
Francis Marshall, senior art curator at the Museum of London, said the exhibition was timely.
He said: "The decision to put the display here was important. It was partly a desire to keep the issue live but it was also to provide an opportunity for visitors to give their opinion.
"It is all very well for us to say 'Save Old Flo', but it is useful to have some idea of what people at large think."
The display digs deeper into the link between the sculptor and the East End and reveals the ideas behind the artistic techniques used to create his draped lady.
Francis said there was a "very clear link" between Moore's drawings made during 1940s wartime in Britain and the development of the sculpture at the centre of debate.
"Henry Moore did all these drawings of members of the public sheltering from the Blitz in the Underground system," he said.
"A lot of these drawings were made on the Central Line around Bethnal Green and in this part of London, so they are very significant to the East End.
"It makes Henry Moore's link with the East End more exact.
"These are drawings of people sleeping in blankets, covered in drapery, and he said about the war, these drawings with draped figures influenced his sculpture.
"It made him start to think about how drapery could be used to create sense of form, for example fabric stretched across a knee and the way it folds.
"In a way, the placing of that sculpture in the East End, does create a link and meaning between the war work, the situation the East Enders found themselves in and the sculpture.
"It adds a particular resonance to the piece."
Aside from the historical influences, the exhibition also gives an insight into Moore's "work methods" with the display of a plaster working model of Draped Seated Woman, made in 1956.
Francis added that although it had been restored by the Henry Moore Foundation, a section of the model's leg had deliberately been left damaged, to reveal a metal pole and newspaper stuffed to support it.
He added: "The reality is, art always comes out of a significant social context, it is not divorced from reality at all."
Visitors can leave their comments on the exhibition and the Museum's continual bid to host Old Flo at the end of the display.
Henry Moore and the East End will run until March. Go to museumoflondon.org.uk/oldflo.