A statue at the centre of an international heritage row is now thought to have been exported to the USA.
An Ancient Egyptian statue at the centre of an international heritage row and described as an “irreplaceable masterpiece” has now probably left the UK after its sale by Northampton Borough Council for nearly £16m to a mysterious private collector, campaigners have said.
Campaigners in the UK and the Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh al-Damaty were appalled that the statue would no longer be on public display, with Mr Damaty describing its sale by Northampton Borough Council as “a moral crime against world heritage”.
Amid attempts in Egypt to crowdfund enough money to buy the statue, the Government had put an export ban on the 4,500-year-old statue of Sekhemka due to the statue’s cultural significance and “outstanding aesthetic importance.” The ban was lifted after no UK buyer came forward.
Following the lifting of the export ban, the Save Sekhemka Action Group UK said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we report that the statue is now likely to have left the UK for an unknown fate thus making our campaign work over the past three years and 10 months invalid.
Auctioneers Christies had refused to state where it was going and there were rumours it may have ended up in a private collection in Qatar. However, it has emerged the Department for Culture, Media and Sport granted an export licence to the USA in April.
The sale of the 4,000-year-old statue, believed to be of a high court official, had been opposed by Egypt’s antiquities ministry.
Northampton Council had been warned by lawyers not to sell it for “financial motives”. The council said it sold the figurine to help fund a £14m extension to its museum and art gallery.