Sekhemka owner granted export licence

Patrick Steel, 05.04.2016
Export bar lifted after a year of deferral
The temporary export bar on Sekhemka, the ancient Egyptian statue controversially sold by Northampton Borough Council in 2014, was lifted last week.

The bar was originally placed on the statue in March 2015, then extended in July with the expectation that an institution might raise the recommended price of £15.7m to keep it in the UK.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “After a year under export deferral, no buyer has come forward to purchase the Sekhemka statue. As such, an export licence will be now be issued to the owner.”

Gunilla Loe, the spokeswoman for the Save Sekhemka Action Group, said the group was saddened that its four year long fight had not “borne better fruit”.

She said: “We did rather expect that the ban would be lifted but it still hurts.

“We suspect that the anonymous buyer is a private individual rather than a reputable museum abroad since we feel that in the latter case the ban would either have been lifted sooner or some sensible solution with a British museum would have been found.

“As it is now the statue will disappear into a private collection never to be seen again.”

Following the controversial sale, which breached the Museums Association’s (MA) Code of Ethics, the council was barred from membership of the MA for five years, and lost its Accreditation with Arts Council England, which in turn led to the council losing a £240,000 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.

Sharon Heal, the Museums Association’s director, said: “It is a real shame that Sekhemka is leaving the UK and will in all likelihood never be seen by the British public again.

“Northampton Borough Council has let down local people by selling this important object to the highest bidder. It was an unethical sale and the council has cut itself off from future funding opportunities for this short term gain.”