Director Danny Boyle has joined leading British arts figures urging a cash-strapped local authority not to sell off a valuable Henry Moore sculpture — arguing it should be erected in London's Olympic Park instead.
Draped Seated Woman is owned by London's Tower Hamlets Council and stood for years on a public housing complex in the city's East End.
Last month the council announced plans to sell the bronze artwork to offset funding cuts. Estimates of its value range from £5 million to £20 million ($8 million US to $32 million US).
Tower Hamlets Mayor Luthur Rahman said the local authority faced a "stark choice" at a time of economic weakness and government austerity.
Public art on show worldwide
Moore, who died in 1986, is one of Britain's best-known 20th-century artists, and his curved, semi-abstract forms stand in public spaces around the world.
He sold Draped Seated Woman to the now-defunct London County Council in 1960 for a token price so it could enrich the lives of residents in a poor area.
During its years in the East End it became known locally as "Old Flo" and was regularly vandalized. When the housing project was demolished in the late 1990s, the work was moved to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in northern England.
The proposal to sell it has sparked a campaign to return the artwork to east London, a vibrant but poverty-scarred area that hosted this summer's Olympic Games.
Boyle, artists Jeremy Deller and Rachel Whiteread, Tate galleries director Nicholas Serota and the sculptor's daughter Mary Moore are among signatories to a letter asking the council to reconsider.
Boyle, who won an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire and directed the opening ceremony of the Olympics, said Monday that the sculpture "defies all prejudice in people's minds about one of London's poorest boroughs."
"That alone makes it priceless to every resident," he said. "Let's put it in the Olympic Park alongside the Bradley Wiggins Bell" — rung by the British cycling champion to mark the opening of the games.
The Museum of London also has offered to display the sculpture. The council is due to decide on the work's fate on Wednesday.