The Egyptian Sekhemka statue (2,400-2,300bce)
Northampton Borough Council claim that the sale is to help fund a £14m extension to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. However, ignoring protestations from Egypt’s Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty, and concerned bodies and individuals in Britain (the Museums Association has sent a final warning to Northampton Borough Council saying it will review the authority’s membership status if it sells the statue), a spokesperson for Northampton Borough Council is reported as saying, “We contacted the Egyptian government two years ago regarding our plans to sell Sekhemka. According to Unesco’s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, Egypt has no right to claim the recovery of the statue.”
Our understanding is that Egypt is not claiming ‘recovery’ of the statue at all; it is objecting (and rightly so) to the sale by Northampton Borough Council of a statue held by the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, a statue that was gifted to the Museum by the 4th Marquis of Northampton in 1880. We learn, too, that if the sale of the statue does go ahead the proceeds will be shared with the present Lord Northampton (the Eton-educated peer whose fortune is estimated at £120m and which includes two stately homes, land, valuable paintings, furniture and a disputed Roman treasure hoard) who will receive some 45% of the proceeds.
This is another example of a dangerous trend in the selling off of public property (see also Croydon Council’s sale of Chinese ceramics last year here) and must be stopped before it is too late. If you feel that the sale of the Sekhemka statue should be halted please consider signing the Save Sekhemka Action Group petition here and the STOP THE SALE OF SEKHEMKA BY NORTHAMPTON COUNCIL petition here.