UK art world slams council for sculpture sale plan

Mon Nov 5, 2012 9:59am EST
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LONDON (Reuters) - Leading figures in the art world, including Danny Boyle who oversaw the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, have urged a council in east London to reconsider plans to sell off a valuable Henry Moore sculpture in order to pay its bills.

Tower Hamlets is expected to decide on Wednesday whether to go ahead with the proposed sale of Moore's 1957 bronze "Draped Seated Woman", which is around eight feet tall, weighs over 1.5 metric tonnes and is estimated to be worth up to 20 million pounds ($32 million).

The council is considered one of London's most deprived areas and faces budget cuts of 100 million pounds over the next three years.

While local authorities across Britain struggle with painful spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit, prices for top works of art have soared in recent years making them more expensive to insure.

"The value of art is diminished by being monetarised," Boyle said in a statement on Monday. "The Moore sculpture defies all prejudice in people's minds about one of London's poorest boroughs. That alone makes it priceless to every resident."

Moore, the son of a miner with left-wing political leanings, sold the work in the 1960s for below its market value on the understanding that it should be put on public display for Londoners to enjoy.

It was installed in the new Stifford housing estate at Stepney Green, but when the estate was demolished the sculpture was loaned to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in northern England.

Last month, Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman announced proposals to sell the sculpture in order to cope with growing economic pressures. The council did not immediately respond to requests for further comment on the plans.

Large public sculptures have been targeted in recent years by thieves interested in their scrap metal value.   Continued...