Export ban placed on ancient Sekhemka statue after multi-million sale by Northampton Borough Council

Export ban on Sekhemka
Export ban on Sekhemka
  • A decision whether to grant an export licence for the statue will take place later this year
  • It has been described as being of “outstanding aesthetic importance” and one of the finest examples of its kind in the world
  • Sekhemka could be sold to another buyer if a serious offer is made

An ancient Egyption statue, sold contraversially by Northampton Borough Council last year for £15,6million may not be allowed to leave the country after being put under a temporary export ban.

The statue of the Egyptian official, Sekhemka, which dates back to c. 2,400 BC was sold in July 2014 to an overseas buyer, but culture minister Ed Vaizey has put a temporary export bar on the stature so that it cannot be moved abroad.

We are glad there is a temporary export ban in place and we fervently hope it will be upheld as a permanent ban

Save Sekhemka Action Group

Northampton Boorugh Council said the export ban did not affect the sale of Sekhemka.

A Northampton Borough Council spokesperson said: “The temporary export bar of Sekhemka has no impact on the Borough Council’s sale of the statue and this is a matter for the current owner, Arts Council England and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to resolve.”

Arts Council England (ACE) withdrew its accreditation from the council after it sold the statue during an auction at Christie’s in London, to help fund an extension to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Depicted wearing a kilt and wig, ACE said that the statue, which would have been buried with its deceased human counterpart, is “unrivalled both for its exquisite execution and originality,” and is one of the finest examples of its kind in the world.”

It also said that Sekhemka could be resold to another buyer if a serious offer is made.

Mr Vaizey made the decision not to grant an export licence for the statue following a recommendation from RCEWA (Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest), which is administered by ACE.

The recommendation was made on the grounds that the statue: “Is of outstanding aesthetic importance; that it was of outstanding significance for the study of the development of private statuary and funerary religion in Egypt and the history of human self-representation; and that it was very closely connected with our history and national life.”

A blog post by the Save Sekhemka Action Group following the news said: “We are glad there is a temporary export ban in place and we fervently hope it will be upheld as a permanent ban.

“We would like to see Sekhemka retained in the UK, the only problem is where and how, since the sale itself was unethical and of doubtful legality.

“Northampton Borough Council committed an act of great folly selling the statue.”

A decision on whether to grant the export licence will be deferred until July 29 this year, inclusive, but may be extended until 29 March 2016 if another buyer expresses a serious intention to raise the recommended £15,732,600 (plus VAT) to buy the statue.