The Save Sekhemka campaigners yesterday asked us to give them a day to respond to the Sekhemka sale. They have just done so, with a text by Andy Brockman ('Spinning Sekhemka', Friday, 11 July 2014). And what a text.
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, 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.[my hyperlink].The group will continue to fight, now for an investigation into what should have been clarified before the sale "We will also continue to expose the way this unethical, unnecessary and short sighted sale was undertaken, the many legal and financial questions which surround the sale and the conduct in public office of those whose mission it became to rob Northampton of both a cultural jewel and its cultural credibility" and ask for the support of the local and national media. In particular, there are still ownership issues to be resolved:
Equally, while the statement was open about the fact that the Marquis of Northampton will be receiving a windfall of over £5 million, the statement did not enlighten the Council Tax payers of Northampton why, when NBC allegedly "owned" Sekhemka, they will be adding to the fortune of the multimillionaire Marquis and paying for it by becoming pariahs in the museum and heritage world. Like the Museums Association, we believe that the ownership of Sekhemka was never legally resolved and we will be consulting with colleagues to see if an investigation can be mounted into whether Councillor Mackintosh and Northampton Borough Council misled the public, the media and Christie's by saying they did own the statue. [my hyperlink]As for the plans for the future of the museums, Brockman questions the whole story and rightly points out it's more than a matter of providing a building with exhibition space:
We would point out that without the commitment to display the cream of all the collections and to hold a research archive curated by the specialist curatorial staff and teachers who have been made redundant or not replaced, the Museum Service has no future. Museums exist for their collections held in trust for the future and the expertise to display, describe and bring them to life for visitors and researchers. [...] The only way for Northampton to begin to climb out of the reputational mire into which it has been dropped by Councillor Mackintosh's sale of Sekhemka, is for the Museum Service to be handed back to the professionals who know how to run it ethically and for the good of the Town.They point out that the sale will have disastrous consequences for museum acquisitions, "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".