Thursday, 10 July 2014

Sekhemka Sale Starts soon.

The limestone statue was "gifted" to the people of
in 1880, but current officials are having none of that and
are flogging off the town's heritage (photo BBC)
Auction Jul 10, 7:00pm, Christie's Saleroom 8 King Street, St. James's, London. Of 58 lots, the Sekhemka statue is lot 10 (Estimate £4,000,000 – £6,000,000 ($6,848,000 - $10,272,000)). At the time of commencement of the auction the petition had 1050 signatures.

The BBC has a text containing some important sentiments:
Ruth Thomas, from the Save Sekhemka Action Group, said: "The money gained by the sale of the statue would be completely offset by the much greater amount lost from grants and subsidies no longer available if the museum loses its accreditation. "Ethically, it undermines the whole purpose of museums which is to safeguard collections for future generations." Scott Furlong, from Arts Council England said: "We are very disappointed to hear that Northampton Museum is going ahead with plans to sell Sekhemka. "Those who choose to approach the sale of collections will only further alienate both key funders and the public who put their trust in them to care for our shared inheritance. "As a result of this decision, we will be assessing Northampton Museum's accreditation status in the coming months."

Callum Jones is inside tweeting live:

- There are some Egyptian protesters outside Christie's ahead of the sale

The auction has now started Sekhemka is lot number 10 so will probably come up in15 minutes.

Auction delayed, by shouts from protesters among the audience inside Christie's (a first?) representatives of the UK's hoi polloi 99% who don't have disposable incomes of millions for trophy geegaws and for whom museums are an important link with world cultural heritage. 

19:16 somebody just paid £ 15,762,500 for Sekhemka's soul.

The Bruce family will probably be asking for the "Elgin Marbles" back from a London museum now, so they can flog them off for a better price than the 7th Earl got. Meanwhile all over Egypt, on hearing the news, farmers will inevitably be looking with new curiosity at the lapidaria and stores of many remote sites. What are you going to do, bolt it all down?

UPDATE 11.07.14:

Mike Pitts took some photos in Christie's on the day. Nord Wennerstrom explains the nature of the disturbance:
Bidding opened at £3 million, had reached £3.8 million when a protester in the room interrupted the proceedings. At one point he vowed/warned any successful buyer “we will follow you.” The auctioneer turned off the audio feed and sat down.  After a couple of minutes the sale continued and the statue finally sold to a telephone bidder for a hammer price of £14 million (£15,762,500 with the buyer’s premium or $26,985,402) against a £4-6 million estimate.
If that is true, I am disappointed. The closet anarchist in me is delighted by the notion that somebody might have made the fat cat collectors fleetingly uncomfortable actually within in Christie's hallowed halls. Good for them. I wonder whether I would have the nerve to stand up and do such a thing myself. But I was hoping for something more ideological/political. To make a crude physical threat is another thing. It is doubly counter-productive. We need more transparency in the antiquities market, not collectors hiding their identities out of fear (or pretended fear) of physical violence. Let's keep it clean. Criticism yes, but making physical threats is dropping to the levels of the worst side of the metal detectorists. Let's hope we see no more of that.

I am now however beginning to get a nasty feeling about the timing of that fire in Northampton. More on that later.

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