The controversial sale of the Sekhemka statue has gone ahead, selling for £15.76 million at Christie’s auction house.
Campaigners made a last-ditch attempt to stop the sale, with protestors making their feelings known in London ahead of Thursday night’s auction.
Earlier in the day the Egyptian government had raised their objections to the auction, the proceeds of which will be divided between Northampton Borough Council and Lord Northampton.
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. It has been held in storage for the last four years.
The bidding for the statue moved at an astonishing rate, starting at £3 million, jumping up in million-pound increments before finishing on £14 million less than five minutes later. Once commission and charges have been added, the total sale price was £15.76 million. No details are yet known about who has bought the statue.
At one point the auction was stopped after a protest within the auction house. One man was led away after shouting “no-one should bid or buy it”, “I will follow the buyer” and “stolen property”.
The council’s portion of the sale will, it says, be put towards expansion plans for the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. The borough council will pocket 55 percent of the proceeds of the sale and Lord Northampton will get the remaining 45 percent.
Speaking after the sale, Sue Edwards from the Save Sekhemka Group, said it was “the blackest day in Northampton’s cultural history ever” and the town had been “shamed across the world”.
Leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor David Mackintosh, said: “Sekhemka has sold for over £15m with £8m coming to Northampton Museum Service to realise our exciting plans for the future.
“Every penny is ring fenced for the Museum Service and we will now make our museum redevelopment plans a reality.”
Councillor Mackintosh said he would be talking to Arts England on Friday to assure them of Northampton’s commitment to museum heritage.
“I can categorically state no other items from the museum’s collection will be sold off. Sekhemka was an exceptional case,” he added.
The Museums Association said earlier this week that it would review the Northampton museum’s members if the sale went ahead, which it said breached ethical guidelines.
Members of the Save Skhemka Action Group have led a concerted campaign to stop the sale.
Previously, 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.”