2012 could represent a sad farewell between Yorkshire and one of the region’s most beloved works of art, as its time on loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park draws to a close. The monumental sculpture ‘Draped Seated Woman’ by local icon Henry Moore has become something of an institution in the park, inspiring a gamut of reactions in visitors spanning awe, fondness, melancholy, just to skim the surface.
The harsh reality is that the statue which so belongs amongst the soft hills and greys and greens of Yorkshire actually belongs to the borough of Tower Hamlets in London. The borough’s council has racked up a pretty impressive £100million of debt over the years, and it is feared that the temptation to sell the sculpture – which is valued at a massive £20million – to a private collector and instantaneously erase a fifth of the council’s arrears could be too great to resist.
There’s undeniably a strong case for returning the artwork to the capital for public exhibition – most likely at Victoria Park or Canary Wharf. Gifted to Tower Hamlets by Moore himself in 1962, ‘Draped Seated Woman’ occupied a site on London’s Stifford Estate – where it came to be known affectionately by locals as ‘Old Flo’ – right up until 1997. It seems that both Yorkshire and London can lay a very persuasive claim to Moore’s masterpiece. You get the impression that as long as it remains in public ownership it can happily journey between the two areas through centuries to come, but the great fear is that were it to be be put up for sale in an auction the hugely popular sculpture could end up in the foyer of some bank or an oligarch’s back garden.
As a representative of Wakefield’s The Hepworth gallery ventured on The Henry Moore Foundation’s Facebook page, “If sold I wonder when the public will see it again? Its a great shame it can’t remain at Yorkshire Sculpture Park where it looks wonderful and is enjoyed by an enormous audience”