Sekhemka Egyptian statue: Northampton stands by sale

Sekhemka statue Image copyright christies
Image caption Northampton Borough Council said the statue was sold to help fund a museum extension

A museum that sold a 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue would do it again despite losing further funding, Northampton's council boss has said.

Northampton Borough Council sold Sekhemka for £15.76m last July.

Arts Council England accreditation was withdrawn and access to further funding needed to expand the museum was denied.

Council leader Mary Markham said it did not expect the sale to cause so much trouble, but the Museum Association said the sale had cut funding sources.

The statue depicts a high official at the Pharaohs' court.

Image caption The identity of the new owner, who bought the statue at auction, has not been revealed

Its sale raised £6.8m for the council with the remainder going to the Duke of Northampton whose family donated the statue.

Cash was needed for a building to display more historic artefacts kept in store and provide education events, but a shortfall of £7.8m needs to be made up before plans can be completed.

Mrs Markham said: "Sekhemka was not on display, no-one knew it was here but the sale would allow us to expand the museum.

"We did not expect the issue of the sale to go global."

Mrs Markham said despite losing access to Arts Council England funds, the council could apply to other sources of finance.

Image copyright Christies
Image caption The statue of Sekhemka, who was a royal chief, judge and administrator, shows him reading a scroll

Sharon Heal from the Museums Association said the sale had damaged the borough's reputation internationally and led to condemnation by the Egyptian government and its ambassador.

"The council will not quickly or easily get over this," she said.

Mrs Markham was adamant the decision was right and the council would "definitely do it again", even with the benefit of hindsight.

A Department of Culture export bar on the statue, imposed after complaints by the Egyptian government, local protests and a national campaign, expires this month.

The Save Sekhemka Action Group is now campaigning to find it a new home in a British public museum.

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