Sekhemka statue sale: Northampton Council 'violated trust'

Sekhemka statue Image copyright Christies
Image caption The limestone statue stands 30in (76cm) high

A council's decision to sell an ancient Egyptian statue for nearly £16m was a "clear violation of public trust", the Museums Association has said.

Northampton Borough Council sold the 4,000-year-old Sekhemka statue in July, partly to help fund the expansion of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

A hearing of the Museums Association has decided to ban the council from membership for five years.

But the authority said it had already decided to resign its membership.

Image caption Protesters gathered outside Christie's of London before the auction

David Fleming, chairman of the MA's ethics board, said it provided for "such a sale only as a last resort after other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored".

He added: "Museums have a duty to hold their collections in trust for society. They should not treat their collections as assets to be monetised for short-term gain."

A spokesman for Northampton Borough Council said: "It is curious that the Museums Association is choosing to review our membership when we have already notified them that we have resigned from the association and have no desire to ever rejoin.

"We are focusing on the future and our exciting plans to invest in improving both museums including the huge expansion of the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery rather than the odd bureaucracy of an organisation we no longer belong to."

Arts Council England had already said the sale breached the accredited standards for how museums manage their collections, and that the council would no longer be eligible for a range of grants.

The Museums Association said money from the auction at Christie's was to be shared with Lord Northampton, whose ancestors donated the statue to the museum.

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