Export ban for £15m Egyptian statue controversially sold to private buyer
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Export ban for £15m Egyptian statue controversially sold to private buyer

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A statue, which caused a UK museum to be stripped of funding following its £15m (US$25m, €18.8m) sale, has had an export ban placed on it, stopping the piece leaving the country.

The 4,500-year-old Sekhemka sculpture, sold by Northampton Borough Council – operators of Northampton Museum – to on overseas buyer in July, raised ire among the heritage and museum community over the sale of cultural treasures by cash-strapped local authorities.

But the government’s Culture minister, Ed Vaizey, has placed a temporary export ban on the statue, while Arts Council England (ACE), which stripped Northampton Museum of its funding in July, has said it is “possible” that a new buyer could be found within the UK.

Northampton Borough Council reiterated that the temporary block had “no impact” on the statue’s sale, which is funding an extension of the museum and art gallery, with a spokesperson adding that it was “up to the current owner, ACE and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to resolve between them.”

The export ban was made following the recommendation of the ACE-administered Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), which said that the statue was of "outstanding aesthetic importance" and was significant for the study of "the development of private statuary and funerary religion in Egypt and the history of human self-representation".

The Egyptian government has also opposed the sale, with Egyptian Ambassador Ahsraf Elkholy calling the move "an abuse to the Egyptian archaeology and the cultural property".

A final decision on the export licence application has now been deferred until 29 July. The buyer of the piece remains anonymous.

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A statue, which caused a UK museum to be stripped of funding following its £15m (US$25m, €18.8m) sale, has had an export ban placed on it, stopping the piece leaving the country.
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