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The Henry Moore exhibition at One Canada Square – Indomitable Spirit: Henry Moore Draped Seated Woman 1957-58 takes a detailed look at Moore’s famous sculpture which is affectionately known as Old Flo. It resided in the grounds of the Stifford estate in Stepney for many years. When it was first installed locals and estate dwellers initially objected to the sculpture:

‘What is this? Is this monstrosity supposed to represent womanhood? Surely, there is something wrong with art when it deliberately sets out to portray a malformed, ill proportioned wench as a woman. What does the statue, just off Jamaica Street, suggest to the passer by?’

However many soon grew to love it and bestowed upon it the nickname by which it is now most well known. The sculpture was removed when the 1960s tower blocks were being pulled down and transferred to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Tower Hamlets attempted to sell it in 2012 – a very controversial move. It was argued the council was the sculpture’s custodian, not its legal owner. The dispute was eventually settled via the High Court.

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introduction to the Draped Seated Woman exhibition

Old Flo has now been restored and was installed in Cabot Square during October 2017. Its residency here is expected to last until 2022. The exhibition is nearby, being located within the One Canada Square lobby.

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The seven Old Flo sculptures as represented in the exhibtion

The exhibition tells the story of Moore’s Draped Seated Woman. Moore’s work on the underground are discussed, including the sketches of people sleeping/resting in the tunnels whilst taking refuge from wartime bombs. One of these works depicts a woman seated and this led to the beginnings of Moore’s famous sculpture.

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Henry Moore with Old Flo in the grounds of his home at Perry Green, Hertfordshire

The sculptures were created at Perry Green, Hertfordshire. This was Moore’s home and his studios too. Seven copies of the sculpture were made and these are in various locations around the world, including the original which is at Tate Britain. Maquette for Figure on Steps was a model of the actual work itself. There are ten copies of this and one is on show at the Canada Square exhibition.

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Old Flo in Cabot Square with the iconic towers as a background

The exhibition also examines the sculpture’s early days including discussions with the London County Council with a view to purchasing and placing the sculpture at the Stifford Estate in Stepney, and its move to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The story then goes on to the sculpture’s restoration and ultimately its return to Tower Hamlets in 2017.

Other related aspects of Moore’s work are also discussed as well as the tools he used.

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Do you remember Old Flo? Canary Wharf flyer featuring the sculpture at Stepney in the sixties

The exhibition barely touches upon Moore’s socialism, but its perhaps not too surprising given the location. Canary Wharf is however commended for making the effort to bring together various archival books, documents and photographs in order to tell the story of Old Flo and Moore’s famous sculptures. There are moves to create a community called ‘Friends of Old Flo’ as well as community and education programmes.

The exhibition runs from 12 February until 6 April.