Tower Hamlets is one of the less well-to-to London boroughs. Until recently, it was planning to auction off a Henry Moore sculpture of “Draped Seated Woman,” with an estimated value of about $32 million to reduce its deficit over the next few years. The sculpture is on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in northern England. Selling publicly owned art to compensate for insufficient budgets in the tough economic times is derided on both sides of the ocean. Here also, the proposed sale drew much criticism as short-term fix and a dangerous precedent. However, the plans to sell Moore through Christie’s auction house were put on hold after the Art Fund charity challenged ownership of the sculpture. Apparently the piece was sold by Moore in the 1960s at little price with an understanding that it would remain on public display in London. At the time of sale, the painting was under ownership and control of Greater London Council, dissolved as of 1986. At the time, the sculpture was physically located in the Borough of Tower Hamlets but whether title passed to Tower Hamlets or not is uncertain. Art Fund has been quoted as saying that “Ownership must be established be established beyond reasonable doubt before a work of art can be sold.”
Tower Hamlets must respond to the challenge by December 3, 2012.Source: Reuters.