Draped Seated Woman is a sculpture with a history. Created in 1958 it once sat in midst of the Stifford Estate on Jamaica Street in Stepney Green. Moving there in 1962 it stayed until the estate itself was demolished. That was in 1997 and ‘Old Flo’ as the Eastenders had called her needed a new home.
The sculpture was bought as part of the London County Council’s Art Patronage Scheme. For the best part of 10 years from 1954 to 1964 it’s aim was to provide art to the masses. Commissioned and placed in council estates and schools, it’s legacy is still very much alive. Some of the public art it purchased is still going strong. Still standing proud in the communities they were bought for.
Old Flo moved to Yorkshire
Since the demolition of the Stifford Estate though Moore’s masterpiece has been sitting in the open countryside of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. One of the world’s foremost sculpture parks it was perhaps more suited to the open setting, looking out across the rolling countryside. But this was not where Old Flo was ever intended. It was meant for the East End and this has always been it’s rightful home.
Finally in 2017 it was brought back. Following an absence of 20 years Moore’s masterpiece was returned. It had been the source of some controversy after the former mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfer Rahman, had wanted to sell it. Now discredited due to electoral fraud. The sale was supposedly to cover shortfalls in the council budget. On his removal from office in 2015 however the sale was ceased.
Henry Moore Sculpture in Canary Wharf
Finally Draped Seated Woman was returned in 2017. One of the biggest challenges had always been to find an appropriate place to relocate the work. That place was eventually found. Sitting now on Cabot Square in Canary Wharf. It isn’t quite situated in the working class neighbourhood it was originally meant for. However it is nonetheless back in East London.
Moore’s inspiration behind Draped Seated Woman supposedly stems from his experiences of the blitz in the second world war. At least this is where he developed an interest in depicting the human form within draped and folded fabric. A series of shelter drawings made for the War Artists Advisory Committee seems to have been where the seed may have been planted.
Old Flo is a piece of public art which has had an impact. The East End estate where it started it’s life is no longer there. The sculpture which now sits a few miles away is the only reminder of it. Certainly it would have formed part of the life of the area. Nowadays it’s value is supposedly to be upwards of £18 million. However tell that to the kids in Stepney Green who would have grown up playing on and around it. Clambering up and down Old Flo like she was one of the family.