Two museums have lost their accreditation status after the controversial sale of a 4,400-year-old Egyptian statue to a private collector.
Northampton Borough Council in England sold the ancient Egyptian limestone statue of Sekhemka for nearly £16 million at auction to help fund an extension to the town’s museum, as reported in TNN last month.
The statue of Sekhemka in Christie’s gallery (Photo: Mike Pitts)
Arts Council England (ACE) ruled the sale breached the accredited standards for how museums manage their collections and the council is now ineligible for a range of arts grants and funding.
Sekhemka going to the highest bidder (Photo; Mike Pitts)
Scott Furlong, from the Arts Council issued a statement which said: “It is always hugely regrettable when we have to exclude a museum from the Accreditation Scheme.
However, it is equally important that we are robust in upholding the standards and principles which underpin the scheme and are shared by the vast majority of museums.
I am confident that the museums sector and wider community will share our dismay at the way this sale has been conducted and support the decision to remove Northampton Museums Service from the Scheme.
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, which is set to benefit from the sale of the statue, and the council-run Abington Park Museum have been removed from the Accreditation Scheme with immediate effect and excluded from future participation until at least August 2019.
Sekhemka on view at Christies (Phone: Mike Pitts)
David Mackintosh, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said that the news was “disappointing” and “puzzling.”
“We do believe that we have followed the correct process in making this sale and so are considering an appeal and are taking legal advice on how to go forward,” he said.
The left side panel of the statue (Photo: Mike Pitts)
The statue of Sekhemka, Inspector of the scribes, was sold at Christie’s of London during an auction in July, amid protests from the Save Sekhemka Action Group, who said it was the “darkest cultural day in Northampton’s history”.
The right side panel of the statue (Photo: Mike Pitts)
Before the sale, Ahsraf Elkholy, the Egyptian Ambassador to the UK, said it was “an abuse to Egyptian archaeology and cultural property”.
He said: “Our objection starts from this basic principle: how can a museum sell a piece in its collection when it should be on display to the public?
“We are concerned this piece may be moved into a private collection. Sekhemka belongs to Egypt and if Northampton Borough Council does not want it then it must be given back.”
The back of the statue (Photo: Mike Pitts)
Northampton council will receive £8.2 million ($13.8 million) from the sale, while the current much-married Lord Northampton, whose ancestor donated the statue to the museum, will get over £6 million ($10.4 million).
Christie’s has stated it will name the buyer in a few weeks. There is speculation that the new owner is in the Gulf region of the Near East, the location of the wealthiest new global museums