Campaigners fighting the export of the Sekhemka statue – an historic work of art sold by Northampton Borough Council for the princely sum of £15.76m -have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to prevent it leaving Britain. The statue was sold to an anonymous buyer but a temporary export ban was later imposed.
It was later determined that the sale of the 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue to a private collector, by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum had breached Arts Council England’s accredited standards for how museums manage their collections. ACE subsequently removed the institutions from their accreditation scheme with immediate effect. They will now be excluded from future participation until August 2019 and are no longer eligible for Arts Council grants.
Now the export ban is due to expire on 29 July and British and Egyptian campaigners have asked the Prime Minister to intervene “urgently”. The department of culture has said the export ban on the statue would remain if a UK buyer was found. Save Sekhemka action groups in Britain and Egypt have asked David Cameron to intervene to save “one of the jewels of Egyptian and world art.”
“An export licence would allow the statue to be sent anywhere in the world, possibly never to be seen in public again,” a spokesman said.
“The sale by Northampton Council was opposed by the Arts Council, the Museums Association, the Art Fund, and the International Council of Museums, as well as local people in Northampton.”
The two groups want the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to broker an agreement to keep the statue on free public display in a British museum. A DCMS spokesperson stated: “We hope the export bar will result in a UK buyer coming forward so the statue can remain in Britain. “The deferral period may be extended if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the statue is made.”
The statue is considered to be the finest example of its kind anywhere in the world, giving Culture Minister Ed Vaizey cause to place the temporary export bar. The statue of Sekhemka, court official and priest, was sold at Christie’s London for approximately £16 million during an auction in July 2014.