Arts Council England’s judgment that Northampton Borough Council contravened museum accreditation standards when it sold the Sekhemka statue, is the first of similar statements we expect to hear, from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Museums Association among others.
David Mackintosh, leader of the council, apparently called the news “disappointing” and “puzzling”. More puzzling is that he should say that, if he really believes it, as it seems everyone was telling him before the sale that exactly this would happen. As the Save Sekhemka Action Group says today, “During our 2 year campaign to halt the sale of the Egyptian funerary statue, Sekhemka, we have time and again warned that the unethical sale would result in loss of this status.” It goes on to warn that without such accreditation, the council might feel it no longer has anything to lose, so might as well sell whatever it feels like. “Nothing in the collections will be safe unless it is shoe related”, says the action group.
You could be forgiven for thinking there’s some truth in this if you look at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery’s blog. The staff are not wasting their time with superfluous chatter. There have been only two entries between June 1 and today (August 1), one about “a pair of cycling shoes worn by the legendary English racing cyclist, Beryl Burton” (July 7) and the other a short piece about “cowboy boots” (today). I guess they just didn’t notice the sale of one of the borough’s objects on July 10.
Perhaps that was Sekhemka’s downfall. He had the temerity to sit there, hidden away in some secreted case, in bare feet.