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John Biggs, the Labour candidate who won the local mayoral election last month, said he was reversing his predecessor's decision to sell the large bronze of a reclining woman which has been the subject of a two-year ownership battle between Tower Hamlets and Bromley councils.

The sculpture Draped Seated Woman, which was known locally as 'Old Flo' in Stepney where it stood for 30 years, has since resided in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park over the last two decades. It will now be returning to Tower Hamlets, although a council spokesman told ATG that the location where it will be exhibited is still being discussed.

"I am delighted Tower Hamlets has been confirmed as the owner of 'Old Flo'," said Mr Biggs following the High Court ruling. "I want to reiterate my intention to reverse the previous mayor's decision to sell the sculpture.

"I believe that it belongs to the people of east London and should be available locally for public enjoyment."  

Ownership Case

Old Flo was one of at least six casts of Draped Seated Woman made by Moore between 1958-63 - another is in Yale University in the US while others were placed in Cologne, Brussels, Melbourne and Jerusalem. The original scuplture dates from 1957-8 and is now privately owned but on long-term loan at the Tate.

This example remained in the UK and was acquired by the London County Council (LCC) in 1962.

It stood on a site near three tower blocks on the Stifford estate in Stepney - a location now in Tower Hamlets - until it was transferred to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park when the estate was demolished in the 1990s.

The LCC was succeeded by the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1965 but, later, after the GLC was dissolved in 1986 with its powers devolved to the London boroughs, Tower Hamlets claimed their ownership to the sculpture.

Three years ago it was announced that they planned to sell the work, which was reportedly valued at £17m, in order to offset budget cuts. It was consigned to Christie's and scheduled to appear at an auction for February 2013.

The work was withdrawn two months before the sale after its ownership was contested by Bromley Council and the Art Fund. Their lawyers presented a paper trail appearing to show that ownership of the statue had not been transferred to the new Tower Hamlets local authority after the GLC was dissolved and instead rights actually passed to them under The London Residuary Body (Transfer of Property etc) Order 1990.

Tower Hamlets were adamant that the challenge was unsubstantiated and, after a lengthy case, they finally prevailed at the High Court with Mr Justice Norris ruling in their favour earlier this month.