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Artist Bob and Roberta Smith joins protests against the sale of 'Old Flo'

Date uploaded: November 21, 2012

The artist Bob and Roberta Smith, alongside Jessica Voorsanger and accompanied by friends and artists, led a flashmob-style protest outside the headquarters of Tower Hamlets council.

This was an artistic protest against the proposed sale of the Henry Moore sculpture Draped Seated Woman, nicknamed 'Old Flo', which Henry Moore sold to Tower Hamlets Council for £6000 in 1960. The sculpture is currently installed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and predictions of its sale value have been as high as £20million. The flashmob included American performance artist Jessica Voorsanger dressed as Henry Moore. Participants wore green dresses and reclined on the steps outside the council building, mimicking the pose of Moore’s famous sculpture.

A public meeting of the UK Art Party took place on Saturday 17th November at Hales Gallery, London, to discuss ways of stopping Old Flo and other public artworks being sold off. The meeting put in place plans for further creative demonstrations against Tower Hamlets council’s sale of ‘Old Flo’. The meeting featured an Awards Ceremony for logos created by local artists protesting against the sale. The banners, paintings and drawings will be delivered to Lutfur Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets, on Thursday 22nd November. Smith will then ask the mayor to pick his favourite. Flyers of the logos will also be distributed in Whitechapel and Bethnal Green every weekend up until Christmas.

The meeting was attended by around 25 people, including senior Museum of London staff Kate Starling (Director of Major Programmes) and Francis Marshall (Senior Curator, Art). The Museum has offered to relocate the sculpture, which has been on loan to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the last 15 years.

Bob and Roberta Smith said: "We will be doing all we can to get the message across to Tower Hamlets council. It is an absolute travesty. Old Flo belongs to the East End and should be back here.”

The proposed sale of the sculpture has provoked widespread condemnation, including a response from Danny Boyle. It has prompted fears of more publicly-owned art being sold. Artist Amy Pennington, who won an award for best logo, warned that the sale could open the floodgates to other councils selling off valuable artworks to raise money. She said: “If we let this go where will it end? Old Flo should be accessible for the masses and not for the elite. It is a beautiful sculpture and one that should remain in public view.”

Smith supported this, stating: “It is a very damaging sale. Smaller councils across the country will look at this and think, ‘If Tower Hamlets can do it despite the strong artistic community in London, so can we’.”

Smith is calling on artists to use their creativity and lend support to the campaign. “It's an opportunity to show how important art is to the heritage and history of the local community. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve on how to do this but it would be great to see what other people come up with. They can tweet me at @BobandRoberta."

Join the conversation on Twitter using the tag #OldFlo

Click here to watch Tim Newton's video of Bob and Roberta Smith's Old Flo Flash Mob protest here. Film by Tim Newton of the Leytonstone Information Bureau.

Bob and Roberta Smith flashmob outside Tower Hamlets council building. Image: Jessica Voorsanger

Bob and Roberta Smith flashmob outside Tower Hamlets council building. Image: Jessica Voorsanger