Northampton Borough Council has been heavily criticised for selling an ancient Egyptian statue to fund local museum improvements.
The 4,000-year-old limestone statue of Sekhemka – gifted to a local museum in the nineteenth century - was yesterday sold at auction by Christie’s for £15,762,500.
The borough council will retain £8m from the sale, while Lord Northampton will receive a further £6m.
A last minute legal challenge from the Egyptian Government failed to halt or postpone the sale.
Egyptian Ambassador Ahsraf Elkholy branded the deal ‘an abuse to the Egyptian archaeology and the cultural property’.
Before the auction, Elkholy told the BBC: ‘A museum should not be a store. Sekhemka belongs to Egypt and if Northampton Borough Council does not want it then it must be given back.’
Northampton will use the proceeds of the sale to help fund a major extension to its museum and art gallery. Work has already begun on developments at the site, which will be central to the development of Northampton’s cultural quarter.
Council leader Cllr David Mackintosh, said: ‘This money will allow us to realise our exciting plans for the future of the museum service.
‘Every penny is ring-fenced for the museum service and we will now make our museum redevelopment plans a reality.’
However the Arts Council today confirmed Northampton Museum could now lose accreditation following the sale. A decision on local compliance will be made later this month.
Scott Furlong, director of acquisitions exports loans collections unit at Arts Council England said it was ‘very disappointing’ that the council committed to the sale before concluding discussions with the body.
‘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,’ Furlong said.
‘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.’