The case that created a campaign and so many objections from the public and international outcry might be over. It was reported yesterday that an ancient Egyptian statue described as an “irreplaceable masterpiece” has most probably left the United Kingdom (UK). The statute was sold to a mysterious private collector for nearly £16m by a British museum about two years ago. The campaigners now call for an end to anonymous auction house sales of art. The UK Government had put an export ban on the 4,500-year-old statue of Sekhemka, amid attempts in Egypt to crowd fund enough money to buy it. Campaigners in the UK (against the sale of the statute to a private buyer) and the Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty were appalled and described its sale by Northampton Borough Council as “a moral crime against world heritage” as a number of news outlets have reported.
The campaigners had asked the government to put a ban on the move of the statute even after it was sold. However, the export ban was lifted recently and the Save Sekhemka Action Group UK announced their failure in securing enough funds to buy the statute back. The group announced that they had found no official support for their campaign from the great national museums and that the impartial condemnation of Northampton Borough Council – which had sold the statute- by Arts Council England and the Museums Association made no impression.
The 4,500-year-old statue of Sekhemka has been rumored to have been sold to a private American collector. The limestone statue, which is about 2.5ft high, shows Sekhemka and a smaller figure, assumed to be his wife, kneeling beside him. It is believed that Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, acquired the statue during a trip to Egypt in around 1850, but it was donated to the museum by the family about 30 years later.
Arts Council England has stripped Northampton Museum of its accreditation status until at least 2019, meaning the Museum is no longer eligible for a string of public grants and other funding, because the sale breached conditions covering the disposal of historic artifacts.
The campaign might be over for the UK group but the Egyptian government has decided to continue to seek legal advice over the unethical sale of Sekhemka. The UK group has however appealed publicly to the mysterious buyer to lend the statue permanently to the Brooklyn Museum, New York, which is already looking after a damaged statue of a similar age and history.