Ancient Egyptian statue's £15.8m auction is 'catastrophic' for Northampton, says Watchmen writer Alan Moore

This is the latest in a trend of councils looking to raise money by selling their arts collections

Arts Correspondent

The bestselling graphic novelist Alan Moore has hit out at the “catastrophic” sale of an ancient Egyptian statue held in Northampton Museum, saying it has brought “shame” on the town.

The author of The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, who lives in Northampton, said the sale of the 4,500-year-old Sekhemka painted limestone statue – which went for nearly £15.8m at auction on Thursday night – would be “a resounding shame upon this town and the people who are governing it”.

The sale, at Christie’s auction house, was arranged by the council last year to help fund the £14m extension of the museum, which receives around 76,000 visitors a year. The proceeds will also be shared with Lord Northampton, whose family donated the sculpture in 1880.

It is just the latest case of local authorities looking to raise money by selling their arts collections. In November, Croydon council controversially sold 24 pieces from the Riesco Collection of Chinese porcelain at an auction in Hong Kong. Tower Hamlets council also met with outrage when it tried to sell the Henry Moore sculpture Old Flo.

The Northampton statue, which had been expected to fetch about £4m, was discovered in the burial city of Saqqara near Cairo, taken from the tomb of Sekhemka, Pharaoh’s inspector of scribes.

News that the local borough council, which runs the museum, was to push ahead with the sale caused howls of protest. The Save Sekhemka Action Group said the statue “is unique, there is no other statue like it in a UK museum”. Andy Brockman, an archaeologist working with the group, said: “It was gifted for the enjoyment and education of the people. It is held in trust for the future. This is selling the family silver.”

Egypt’s antiquities ministry, which focuses on recovering ancient treasures, also stepped in on Tuesday in an attempt to block the sale.

But a borough council spokesperson said the Egyptian government was contacted two years ago regarding the plans to sell Sekhemka and Egypt confirmed it had “no right to claim the recovery of the statue”. The Museums Association also appealed to the council to halt the sale, as did the International Council of Museums’ Committee for Egyptology. Arts Council England has warned that the museum could face losing its accredited status should the sale go through, which would see it lose out on funding.

Moore, whose work includes Watchmen, From Hell and V for Vendetta, said: “We should keep it or it should be returned to Egypt.”

He said the sale “undermines the entire principle on which most museums operate”.

The 60-year-old had previously donated a work of art by local children’s author Denys James Watkins-Pitchford, but he said: “I would not be able to do that again in the knowledge that at some point in the future gifts made in good faith could be sold off.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor