Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sekhemka: The Art Fund issues a statement

The sale of the the Egyptian statue of Sekhemka at Christie's earlier this week has prompted a statement from the Art Fund (press release, 11 July 2014). The determination by the officers and councillors of Northampton Borough Council to ignore the ethical guidance offered by the Museums Association seems to have prompted the response that any museum professional would have expected.

The satement says:
in line with the Museum Association’s Code of Ethics for museums, we [the Art Fund] remain strongly opposed to deaccessioning any item for financial reasons except in exceptional circumstances, where the funds will directly benefit the museum collection and only after all other options have been explored. 
This is not the case with the sale of Sekhemka and as such, having gone against the sector's ethical guidance, it risks being stripped of its accredited status. This is therefore a financially as well as morally harmful decision for Northampton Borough Council to take. Not only will they receive only 55% of the final hammer price of £15.8m, but Northampton Museum and Art Gallery will no longer be eligible to apply to us and other major funders for funding for acquisitions, capital projects (including the planned £14m extension), and artistic or educational programming.
The statement reminds Northampton, and any local authority planning to follow in that authorty's footsteps:
Selling items from collections, as Northampton and Croydon have both done in recent months, does not just impact on one particular museum and its visitors; it reduces public trust and risks lessening donors’ desire to give items to museums for their long-term safe-keeping.
Democratically elected local councillors seem to have forgotten the public-interest issue.

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