Arts Council England “saddened” by sale of Sekhemka and could remove Northampton Museum’s accreditation

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Sekhemka statue ENGNNL00120130716121924

Arts Council England says it is “saddened” by the sale of Sekhemka and said it would be assessing Northampton Museum’s accreditation status on July 24.

The controversial sale of the Egyptian statue was completed at Christie’s last Thursday and it collected a price of £15.76 million after it was bought by an unknown private bidder.

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Following the sale, Scott Furlong, director of the acquisitions exports loans collections unit for Arts Council England, said it was “very disappointing” the local authority had committed to the sale and entered into an agreement with an auction house before it had completed discussions with them.

Mr Furlong said: “We are saddened to hear that Northampton Borough Council has now sold Sekhemka, the Egyptian statue, from its public museum collection.

“Collections review and disposal is an important part of good collections management and there are clear guidelines in place offering an ethical framework while making it clear that there are long term responsibilities that custodians of our shared inheritance must consider ahead of any decision to sell objects.

“Those who choose to approach the sale of collections cynically or with little regard for the sectoral standards or their long-term responsibilities will only further alienate both key funders and the public who put their trust in them to care for our shared inheritance.

“It is of great importance that the public retain trust in museums to look after the collections held in their name. We are concerned that this trust may be undermined if disposals from public collections are seen to be driven by financial considerations.”

Mr Furlong said Arts Council England would be assessing Northampton Museum’s Accreditation compliance during a meeting of the accreditation panel on July 24.

If Northampton Borough Council was to lose its accreditation status it would ineligible for any grants from the Arts Council or, possibly other funders such as The Heritage Lottery Fund.

In the past two years, Northampton Museum has received £167,000 in grants from Arts Council England, however the majority of the £1 million running costs are paid for by the borough council.

The proposed extension of the museum and Abington Park Museum is likely to cost £14 million and council leader David Mackintosh has said “every penny” will be used to fund the refurbishment.

Councillor Mackintosh said: “We have made every effort to work within the guidelines set out by the Museums Association, as we spoke with other museums and collections about the future of the statue.

“Through the auction we have raised a significant amount of money which will be reinvested back into an improved museum service for our town as we take the opportunity to expand the Museum and Art Gallery and improve Abington Park Museum. The extension will see a significant increase in the space available to tell the story of Northampton and celebrate our traditional industries, as well as opening up more educational space for schools and students.”