Thursday, 22 November 2012

Tower Hamlets to Sell-off off Henry Moore!

Making Savings on the Arts down South
 Draped Seated Woman, a three-metre tall bronze by Henry Moore, is currently on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Photograph: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images

TOWER HAMLETS in London has taken the decision to sell-off the borough's Henry Moore sculpture 'Draped Seated Woman' (pictured above) and known locally as 'Old Flo', to help cover the council's budget problems;  it is faced with cuts of £100.  In doing so it follows in the footsteps of councils in the northern towns of Bolton and Bury.  In 2011, Bolton Council put up for sale 35 works of art, including Millais, Picasso and Hutchinson, and in 2006 Bury Council faced much criticism when it sold off L.S. Lowry's 'A Riverbank' for £1.4m.

At the time of the Bury Council sale of the L.S. Lowry in 2006, Simon wrote:  'The town of Bury was once a cut above adjacent Bolton and Oldham.  Though in the heart of mill country, it had the aura of a small market town, ruined only in the 1970s by a crazy burst of road building.  It's art collection was given by a local paper-making tycoon, Thomas Wright, in the 1880s on condition that the town built an appropriate gallery, which it nobly did.'

A Riverbank by LS Lowry
'A riverbank' by L.S. Lowry

At that time, Mr. Jenkins argued that 'The Museums Association is not protecting galleries by punishing those whose relationship with their council has collapsed under government force majeure'.  Since then Bolton, only last year sold off its Millais painting, getting £74,00 for 'A Somnambulist', well below the auctioneer's estimate, and does not do much to solve the Bolton Council's financial problems. 

Thus, Tower Hamlets, one of London's poorest boroughs, follows on in a sad tradition of the northern councils.  Today it is selling in a climate of high prices for works of art as the market is on a roll.  The temptation is seemingly too great for council bumpkins across the land to resist:  'Let's sell the arty-fary stuff and build a road or summat!'.  So it will be that, as the poet Phillip Larkin said:  'England will become a land of concrete and tyres'.

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