Sekhemka campaigners: we will try to block any export of statue after “day of shame” for Northampton

The Sekhemka statue
The Sekhemka statue

Campaigners against the sale of the £16 million Sekhemka statue have said yesterday’s auction was “day of shame for Northampton.”

The controversial sale of the Sekhemka statue went ahead last night, selling for £15.76 million, including fees, 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 the 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.

And 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.

Today, a spokesman for the Save Our Sekhemka Action Group said: “No amount of political spinning, or dazzling the press and public with the number of zero’s at the end of the auction price, can hide the fact that last night’s sale of Sekhemka in Christie’s was an entirely avoidable, counter productive and a day of shame for Northampton. .

“A shame compounded by the fact that the decision of one man, taken against all professional advice locally, nationally and internationally has led the world and the people of Egypt in particular, to see Britain as a place which sees Egypt’s rich and historic culture as a chip to be bet on and cashed in, not a jewel of human creativity to be shared and cherished.

“As [Northampton graphic novelist] Alan Moore has pointed out, thanks to the sale of Sekhemka, no-one would dream of donating something valuable to a public museum if at some stage it can be taken away and flogged off to the highest bidder in a commercial fire sale.”

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 council’s portion of the sale is earmarked for 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.

The Save Our Sekhemka spokesman said the group would still try to influence the final destination of the statue.

He said: “We will oppose the export of the statue from the UK if that is what transpires, whoever the new owner of Sekhemka is.

“Particularly if that owner is a private individual who will not put Sekhemka on free public display.

“If Sekhemka is not to stay on open display in the UK his only legitimate destination is a public museum in Egypt.”