Boyle's Plea Rejected As Council Confirms Art Sale

A cash-strapped local authority is going ahead with the sale of a Henry Moore sculpture - despite Danny Boyle's plea for it to be housed in London's Olympic Park.

Draped Seated Woman is owned by Tower Hamlets London Borough Council, but currently rests in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield.

Prior to its move up north it stood for years on a public housing complex in the East End.

Last month the council announced plans to sell the bronze artwork to offset its funding cuts. Estimates of its value range from £5m to £20m.

Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman said: "It is with considerable regret that I make this decision, but I have a duty to ensure residents do not suffer from the brunt of the horrendous cuts being imposed on us.

"We are faced with a stark choice in these times of recession. Do we keep this valuable sculpture in Yorkshire?

"Or do we try to sell this globally important artwork in order to release much-needed funds to invest in local heritage projects we can sustain, affordable housing, improving opportunities and prospects for our young people and keeping our community safe?"

Councillor Rania Khan added: "Tower Hamlets is being judged rather harshly by the art world with regards to our decision to sell the sculpture. We are not the first council to do this in order to benefit our residents and I am sure we will not be the last.

"I see first-hand the difficulties residents are faced with in the borough. Henry Moore said he wanted his sculpture to benefit the residents of the borough and through the sale the council can achieve this in a tangible and practical way."

Last year Bolton Council put up 35 works of art to be sold including works by Millais, Picasso and Hutchison, and in 2006 Bury Council raised £1.4m by selling LS Lowry's A Riverbank.

Henry Moore, who died in 1986, is one of Britain's best-known 20th century artists, and his curved, semi-abstract forms stand in public spaces around the world.

He sold Draped Seated Woman to the now-defunct London County Council in 1960 for a token price so it could enrich the lives of residents in a poor area.

During its years in the East End it became known locally as "Old Flo" and was regularly vandalised. When the housing project was demolished in the late 1990s, the work was moved to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The proposal to sell it sparked a campaign to return the artwork to east London.

Boyle, 56, who was artistic director for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, signed a letter to the council asking it to reconsider.

Boyle, who won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire, said the sculpture "defies all prejudice in people's minds about one of London's poorest boroughs".