Plea to make export ban on £15m Egyptian Sekhemka statue permanent

Sekhemka statue Image copyright christies
Image caption Northampton Borough Council said the statue was sold to help fund a museum extension

An action group campaigning to keep an Egyptian statue in the UK wants an export ban to be made permanent.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey placed an export bar on the Sekhemka statue controversially sold for £15.76m by Northampton Borough Council last July.

The Save Sekhemka Action Group hopes the statue, dating from 2400BC, will find a home in a public museum.

The owner of the statue is not known and the borough council said the ban did not directly affect its sale.

"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," a spokesman said.

Image copyright Christies
Image caption The statue of Sekhemka, who was a royal chief, judge and administrator, shows him reading a scroll

The council has since been banned from the Museums Association and has had a Heritage Lottery Fund bid rejected as a consequence.

Mr Vaizey barred the export on recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England.

The RCEWA said the statue was of "outstanding aesthetic importance" and was significant in the study of "private statuary and funerary religion in Egypt and the history of human self-representation".

A decision on the export licence application has been deferred until 29 July.

The action group said: "We would like to see Sekhemka retained in the UK. The only problem is where and how it could be retained and displayed.

"None of the UK's major museums wished to acquire it unless it was given outright - a public body cannot buy something owned by another public body, it is unethical and a misapplication of public money."

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