Monday, 7 September 2015

Sekhemka Heading for Qatar?

A Long Way From Home
Andy Brockman has an interesting piece about recent developments in the Sekhemka case ('Sekhemka latest: DCMS Credibility (sic) at Stake as Sources in Egypt Confirm Qatari Buyer' thePipeLine September 7, 2015. It seems that the decision as to whether to extend the Temporary Export Ban on the statue of the Egyptian Scribe Sekhemka could come within the next 48 hours. 
It has also been confirmed by sources close to the Egyptian Government, that the buyer of the statue is understood to be a member of the Qatari Royal Family.  It was suggested last week that the statue could be destined for a museum which will be opened in time for Qatar’s controversial hosting of the World Cup in 2022.
We may speculate that this refers to Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani rather than Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani. Brockman makes the point that there are "still a number of outstanding questions regarding the actual ownership of Sekhemka between the time it arrived in the UK in the 19th century and the sale of the statue, ostensibly by Northampton Council, in July 2014". In other words, did the seller actually have title to the object? The usual problem with antiquities.
Northampton Council declared consistently that it was the owner of the statue, signed a contract with Christie’s affirming this and paid all of the sales costs, yet it gave 45% of the proceeds of the sale, over £6 million, to the Marquis of Northampton.  Any hint that of unlawfulness in any part of the process could render the any of the parties involved, including the Government, vulnerable to costly legal action.
Brockman makes the point that the decision about letting the statue be exported to Qatar is about the credibility of Britain's heritage policies as a whole, and whether they are hostage to decisions taken "behind closed doors by minor local politicians and millionaire aristocrats".

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