The Museums Association has sent a final warning to Northampton Borough Council saying it will review the authority’s membership status if it sells off an ancient Egyptian statue next week.
The Sekhemka, a 2,700BC funerary monument, which depicts a court official clutching beer, bread and cake, was once a centrepiece of the town’s museum display.
But it is to go to auction at the world famous Christie’s auction house in London as part of its Exceptional Sale 2014 on July 10, which starts at 7pm.
This week the Museums Association (MA), the regulatory body for more than 600 museums across the UK confirmed it would review Northampton’s membership if it breaks ethical guidelines and goes ahead with the sale.
If struck-off, the Guildhall Road museum would be one of only three in three UK not to be endorsed my the MA.
Chairman of the MA’s ethics committee, David Fleming, said: “We would urge 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.
“Without this, the MA cannot endorse the sale.”
The statue is estimated to raise between £4 million and £6 million at next week’s auction.
Prospective buyers will be able to view it at the St James auctioneers from Saturday up until the sale day.
The council has announced that it will share the proceeds with Lord Northampton, whose ancestors donated the statue to the museum.
A share of the sale proceeds will go towards a £14m extension of Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
Arts Council England has also said the sale could jeopardise Northampton Museum’s accreditation status, which would affect its ability to acquire grant funding from various bodies in the future.
Members of the Save Skhemka Action Group are due to hold a ‘small protest’ outside of Christies on Thursday against the sale.
Ruth Thomas, of the group, said: “We don’t want it to be recorded nobody voiced a protest against this sale because we have.”
She added: “If it is sold we will be keeping a watching brief on Northampton’s museum in the future.
“I just hope it is bought by an international museum and doesn’t end up in a private collection to gather dust.”