There is rarely a dull moment in the long-running saga of the Sekhemka statue, the rare Egyptian Old Kingdom sculpture controversially sold by Northampton Borough Council for £15.76 million in 2014. The piece had been displayed at the Northampton Museum and was sold by the Council to raise funds, incurring the wrath of the Museums Association which subsequently removed the Council from its membership.
The precious antiquity has not yet been able to leave the country however, owing to an export ban imposed by the Culture Minister (twice extended) to enable a UK institution to match the selling price, thus retaining the artefact within the UK.
With the export ban set to expire in a couple of weeks (29 March), it has been reported today by the Art Newspaper that the Egyptian ambassador has proposed a plan to ‘share’ the statue, with legal ownership vesting in the Egyptian authorities, and the statue being lent for equal periods to the British Museum and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The report heralds the proposed arrangement as “an unprecedented compromise” between two nations keen to display the same antiquity.
The story doesn’t seem to have been picked up elsewhere yet, and no comments have been posted on the Save Sekhemka Action Group website at this stage. No doubt we will learn more over the next few weeks as the expiry date of the export ban looms closer. It will be very interesting to see how the negotiations play out and, indeed, whether anything comes of the ‘serious bid’ to raise funds to keep the statue in the UK which prompted the October 2015 decision to extend the export ban for a second time. Watch this space…
Photo: “Statue of Sekhemka 1950s” by Bibilovski – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA