After an exciting life, Old Flo has returned to London, and to her old borough of Tower Hamlets, for her retirement.
Poor Old Flo. For 35 years she had a contented life in Tower Hamlets, living on the Stifford housing estate in Stepney, where she was well loved. Then, with the demolition of her home, she became a bit troublesome. She had become wealthy and her guardians wanted some of that wealth. But then, her chief guardian came under a black cloud, with accusations of corruption and fraud, and there was a public outcry that this old gentle old lady should be treated so badly.
After Stepney, for 20 years Old Flo was exiled up to rural Yorkshire, for her own safely and security, giving pleasure to the many visitors at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where she could live while the battle for her future raged down in London.
Now she is relatively happy, back in London, in her old borough Tower Hamlets, albeit she is living in temporary accommodation until a long term home is found for her, perhaps in a new Civic Centre in Whitechapel.
Old Flo’s proper name is ”Draped Seated Woman”, an enormous sculpture by Henry Moore that was given under a public arts initiative to Tower Hamlets in 1962. While she was away in Yorkshire, the disgraced Mayor of Tower Hamlets tried to auction her off, through Christies, for an estimated £20 million. Her safety and security is an issue, when so much public art has been lost to metal-thieves.
Now she sits alongside other sculptures by Lynn Chadwick and Richard Rome in Cabot Square in Canary Wharf, surrounded by smart offices, perhaps a far cry from her original home, but at least she is back on her home turf, secure and safe while her long term home is determined, and can give pleasure to the office workers in those huge towering office blocks while she can keep an eye on the construction works going on in front of her.
While we should let Old Flo retire gracefully, there may be a lesson for a artistically-minded and responsible council who might like to put money into public arts, then reap the benefits and reinvest….but in public art, not in subsidising the everyday work of the council.