Advocating for ethical conduct by museums and museum professionals, ICOM CIPEG
cites the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, and particularly its article 2.16 on the income from disposal of collections*, calling on the Northampton Borough Council (UK) to abandon the sale of the Sekhemka statue at Christies London this Thursday 10 July, 2014.
ICOM joins ICOM CIPEGs statement and supports the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities call to stop the sale on the grounds that it goes against the Councils ethics.
This 4,500-year-old Egyptian painted limestone statue depicts Sekhemka, the Pharoahs inspector of scribes. The sculpture was originally acquired by the 2nd Marquess of Northampton during his travels in Egypt in 1849-50 and was given to the Northampton Museum either by the 3rd or 4th Marquess of Northampton prior to 1880, according to a Christies press release.
ICOM CIPEG is also concerned that the sale of the statue, estimated between 5 and 7.5 million euros, according to the same press release, may result in an increase of illicit excavation and trafficking of antiquities in Egypt, an area already exposed to such risks. The fight against illicit trafficking in cultural goods is one of ICOMs priorities and one of its most recent initiatives is the ICOMs International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods.
Since the 2011 uprising, ICOM has been following the events in Egypt closely. In 2011, ICOM published an Emergency Red List of Egyptian Cultural Objects at Risk as a tool to disseminate information and raise public awareness of the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural objects. ICOMs Disaster Relief Task Force also reported on the burning of the Institut dEgypte in December 2011. An ICOM/UNESCO/Blue Shield emergency damage assessment mission was also carried out from 30 January to 2 February, 2014, following a car bomb that caused extensive damage to the building that houses both the Islamic Museum and the National Library of Egypt at Bab el-Khalq Place. ICOM is currently coordinating an international museum relief effort to assist the two institutions. Most recently, in June 2014, ICOMs International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods conducted a mission of experts in Cairo which confirmed the urgent needs of this vulnerable region.
* Museum collections are held in public trust and may not be treated as a realisable asset. Money or compensation received from the deaccessioning and disposal of objects and specimens from a museum collection should be used solely for the benefit of the collection and usually for acquisitions to that same collection. ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, § 2.16