Image: Christie's

MA condemns sale of Sekhemka statue

Sharon Heal, 11.07.2014
Museum service's MA membership may be reviewed following sale
The Museums Association (MA) has condemned the sale of an ancient Egyptian statue from the collection of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
 
The statue of Sekhemka was sold at auction yesterday for over £15m. The council has said it will share the proceeds with Lord Northampton, whose ancestors donated the statue to the museum.

The council has said its share of proceeds from the sale will go towards a £14m extension of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

But the MA said that Northampton Borough Council has not demonstrated that the sale of Sekhemka is funding of last resort in relation to the development plans for the museum site. In addition, its plans to share the proceeds from the sale indicate that legal title of the object is not resolved.
 
David Fleming, chairman of the MA's ethics committee, said: “We do appreciate the huge financial pressure that many local authority museums are under at the present time, but the MA's code of ethics provides for such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored.

"At a time when public finances are pressured it is all the more important that museum authorities behave in an ethical fashion in order to safeguard the long-term public interest.
 
“We asked the council to seek alternative sources of capital funding before undertaking the sale of such an important item with a long history of association with the borough. The council did not provide evidence that it had done this.”
 
Fleming added the MA could now review the museum service’s membership.
 
Arts Council England (ACE) had said that the sale could jeopardise Northampton Museum’s Accreditation status. The MA also warned that the council could face difficulties should it now seek grant funding to support the extension project if it loses Accreditation.

Links

The MA's statement on the sale of Sekhemka (doc)

Comments

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Oliver Green
MA Member
06.08.2014, 19:47
ACE has done the right thing and acted quickly and decisively over this. The MA should now follow up with an expulsion rather than letting the council off the hook or allowing them to resign as Croydon did.
It would also be helpful if the value and importance of Accreditation could be strengthened by persuading the HLF and other grant giving bodies to make it a condition of grant aid to museums. At present it may be useful to HLF applicants to show that they are Accredited but it is not an absolute requirement, which rather weakens the case for those of us acting as mentors to museums working towards Accreditation. ACE should be working with the HLF to make this a partnership and raise the profile of the Accreditation scheme as a core value and key award for the sector.