|Draped Seated Woman 1957–58|
|Dimensions||185.5 cm (73.0 in)|
|Location||Yorkshire Sculpture Park|
Draped Seated Woman 1957–58 (LH 428) is a bronze sculpture by the British artist Henry Moore, cast in an edition of seven in the 1950s. The sculpture depicts a female figure resting in a seated position, with her legs folded back to her right, her left hand supporting her weight, and her right hand on her right leg. The drapery emphasises the female figure, but the facial features are abstracted and barely picked out.
Henry Moore was a war artist in the Second World War. He made a series of drawings of people in London sheltering from the Blitz in the Underground, swathed in thick clothes. These drawings sparked an interest in drapery which was renewed by the classical sculptures that Moore saw during a trip to Greece in 1951. He was attracted by the ability of the drapery to draw attention to some parts of the human form by lying tightly on the shoulders, thighs or breasts while concealing other parts where the wrapping falls slack, and also by the varied textures created by small and large folds in the material.
Moore made a series of sculptures of draped human forms in the 1950s after he was commissioned to create a sculpture for the new UNESCO Headquarters building in Paris. He wanted to create a figure in an architectural context, and turned to the seated human form. The first work in the series in 1955 was a maquette, Draped Seated Woman: Figure on Steps (LH 427), cast in a series of 10. This became the working model for the full-size sculpture that became his Draped Seated Woman 1957–58. He also made a similar work Draped Reclining Woman 1957-58. Moore ultimately abandoned these ideas for the UNESCO commission, and his UNESCO Reclining Figure 1957-58 (LH 416) is a much more abstract reclining form in travertine.
Moore's sculpture depicts a female figure in a seated position. It measures approximately 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) long, 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) tall, and weighs approximately 1.6 tonnes (1.8 tons). It is usually displayed mounted on a flat seat with raised arms to either side.
The sculpture was originally made in plaster, and cast in bronze in an edition of seven; the plaster is now owned by the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the bronze casts are owned by institutions across the world.
The German cast (Die Sitzende) was bought for a new swimming pool in Wuppertal, the Wuppertaler Schwimmoper. It generated very negative reactions from the German public when it went on display. Overnight on 5–6 December 1958, the cast was tarred and feathered, and an anonymous letter was left suggesting that the metal would be better used to make 100 frying pans. The derision continued, and the city authorities eventually donated the sculpture to the Von der Heydt Museum in 1963, and it was moved in September 1966. It went into storage in 1997 while the building was renovated, and returned to the swimming pool in 2010.
One of the casts was acquired by the London County Council in 1962 as part of its Patronage of the Arts Scheme. This scheme was operated by the London County Council and subsequently the Greater London Council between 1956 and 1965, pursuant to which approximately 70 works of art (mainly sculptures and murals) were purchased (including a cast of Draped Seated Woman). During that time, many new housing estates and schools were being built, as part of the regeneration process in London following World War Two. Sir Alan Bowness (Director of the Tate Gallery from 1980–88) was a member of the Advisory Committee and knew the then leader of the LCC, Sir Isaac Hayward, who encouraged the siting of such works of art on the new housing estates, in schools and parks, so that they could be enjoyed by the people of London.
On 5 October 1959, the General Purposes Committee of the London County Council approved a programme for the acquisition and commissioning of works of art in the financial year 1959 to 1960 and had allocated £20,000 for that purpose. Provision had previously been made for expenditure of £1,500 for a sculpture (The Lesson by Franta Belsky) for the Avebury Estate, Bethnal Green, and £3,500 for a second work of art at the Alton Road Estate, Roehampton (The Watchers by Lynn Chadwick). The Housing Committee had decided not to pursue these proposals and instead noted that the Committee should consider providing work at the Stifford Estate, (Clive Street), Stepney (where Draped Seated Woman was subsequently sited) and the Alton Road Estate. The proposed fee for a work of art for the Clive Street Estate was £2,000 plus incidental works of £200, out of the annual budget of £20,000.
During 1960, the London County Council made provision for the purchase of a work of art to be sited on the Stifford Estate, a new housing estate in the process of being constructed. Construction was completed in 1961 and tenants moved in in 1962.
A memorandum dated 27 July 1961 from the Advisory Body relating to the Patronage of the Arts notes: "Stifford Estate, Stepney (1959–60 programme) Provision has been made for a sculpture at a cost of £2,200. The Advisory Body are of the opinion that the site is of such prominence and importance that a work of major importance should be provided…The last remaining copy of "Seated Draped Woman" by Henry Moore is available and the Advisory Body strongly recommend that it should be acquired for this estate. None of the other copies of the work is [sic] in London. The cost would be £7,000 plus £400 for incidental works".
A concurrent report by the Clerk of the Council dated 4 September 1961 noted that it was "for the Sub-Committee to decide…whether to recommend to the Committee to approve the proposals of the Advisory Body, and to make any necessary programme adjustments, in respect of...Stifford Estate, Stepney", among others.
The minutes of the General Purposes (Special Development and Arts) Sub-Committee dated 9 October 1961 subsequently passed a resolution that "subject to the approval of the Housing Committee the programmes of patronage of the arts for the years indicated are as follows:- (i) 1959–60 – Stifford Estate, Stepney – By the acquisition of a cast of "Draped Seated Woman" by Henry Moore, at a cost not exceeding £7,000 plus £400 for incidental expenses (instead of a sculpture at a cost of £2,200)".
The minutes of the Advisory Body's meeting dated 22 February 1962 note that in relation to the Stifford Estate "Henry Moore has agreed to sell a cast of his Draped Seated Women for a site on this estate, following the decision of the LCC General Purposes Committee to allocate £7,000 for this purpose". The minutes also refer to the purchase of F. E. McWilliam's "Witch of Agnesi" for the Avery Hill training college site.
Draped Seated Woman was installed on the Stifford Estate on 1 July 1962. Nicknamed "Old Flo" it remained at the same site until the demolition of the estate and in 1997 it was loaned by Tower Hamlets to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where remained until October 2017. In 2012, Tower Hamlets made a decision to sell the sculpture which led to a public campaign to prevent the sale and a subsequent legal challenge over title.
On 3 October 2012, Tower Hamlets' Cabinet (led by Lutfur Rahman) made the decision to sell the sculpture. This followed a resolution on 15 September 2010 where the Council asked its officers to explore options and costs for relocating the Sculpture in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The findings were presented to the Cabinet on 3 October 2012 who concluded that they would seek to sell the sculpture and consign it to Christie's for sale at public auction. Tower Hamlets took no steps to identify any other parties who may have had a claim to title of the Sculpture or to confirm title before this decision was made.
The decision was then called-in pursuant to paragraph 16 of part 4 of the Council's Constitution. The call-in requisition cited the following reasons for the call-in:
The Decision was subsequently discussed by the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6 November 2012. The meeting was attended by a representative of the Museum of London, who presented the Museum's proposal to house the Sculpture at its secure site at no cost to the Council. The Committee unanimously referred the Decision back to the Cabinet for further consideration, proposing several alternative actions (see paragraph 8.2 of the Committee's Minutes). These included that:
"Insufficient consideration has been given to alternative options for returning the sculpture to the borough for public view and the decision seems to have been rushed. The alternative options should now be fully considered. In particular the offer from the Museum of London Docklands to host and insure the sculpture should be explored as well as the other expressions of interest and offers of support These offers illustrate that it is possible to return the sculpture to public view in the borough securely."
At the Cabinet meeting the following day, 7 November, the Committee's findings were acknowledged, but the decision to sell the sculpture was reaffirmed.
A number of organisations were involved in the campaign to prevent the sale of Draped Seated Woman including the Art Fund and the Museum of London and in 2012 researchers from the Museum of London discovered that the sculpture was never transferred legally to Tower Hamlets and that the likely owner of the sculpture was actually the London Borough of Bromley in its capacity as successor to the London Residuary Body. When challenged, Tower Hamlets was unable to provide any evidence that the sculpture was ever transferred to it on the abolition of the GLC and after prolonged correspondence between the two councils the case went to the High Court for a determination on title.
It was argued by the respondent in the High Court in 2015 that the route to title for the London Borough of Bromley was as follows:
Tower Hamlets disagreed with this and asserted that either:
In July 2015, Mr Justice Norris, sitting in the Chancery Division of the High Court, ruled that the route to title argued by the London Borough of Bromley was correct and that the sculpture never transferred legally to Tower Hamlets on the abolition of the GLC by any of the routes argued by Tower Hamlets. He also ruled that the sculpture was not a fixture, was not an estate amenity and had not transferred with the land on which it stood.
However the Judge accepted the final argument from Tower Hamlets that it had committed the tort of conversion when it loaned the sculpture as this was an act inconsistent with Bromley's rights as owner. As more than six years had passed since the act of conversion the judge ruled that Bromley's title was therefore extinguished under limitation and as such title now sits with Tower Hamlets.
This was a controversial decision as it resulted in a public authority enriching itself by its own wrongdoing which conflicts with one of the basic principles of public law which is that public authorities will act lawfully.
In parallel with the high court case a challenge was lodged against the election of Lutfur Rahman as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and his election was declared null and void when the Election Court officially reported Rahman to be "personally guilty" of "corrupt or illegal practices, or both" (electoral fraud) under the Representation of the People Act 1983. With removal of Rahman there was another election held for Mayor which was won by the Labour candidate John Biggs who subsequently made a commitment to cancel the sale and investigate a way by which the sculpture could be displayed in Tower Hamlets.