Friday, 24 July 2015

Export ban expiry imminent but it is not too late.... yet

DAVID CAMERON, IT IS NOT TOO LATE FOR YOU TO STEP IN AND PREVENT A CULTURAL CRIME WHICH ONLY AIDS THE SO CALLED ISLAMIC STATE AND OTHER CRIMINALS  WHO SEEK TO TRAFFIC ANCIENT ART AND ANTIQUITIES.

On 10 July 2014 the statue of the Ancient Egyptian civil servant Sekhemka, one of the jewels of Egyptian and World Art was sold to an anonymous buyer at Christie's in London for £15.76 million.  The sale of this irreplaceable part of the museum collection held in care for the public by Northampton Council was opposed by the Arts Council, the Museums Association, the Art Fund, and the International Council of Museums, as well as local people in Northampton [1].  

In just five days time on July 29 2015, a temporary export ban, placed on the statue by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, will expire and the buyer will be free to obtain an export licence and send Sekhemka anywhere in the world, possibly never to be seen in public again.

One of the principle reason for the international opposition to the sale was the increasing evidence that such sales benefit no-one except the international auction houses who see their profits increased and international terrorists and criminal gangs who fund their activities by trafficking and selling art and archaeological artefacts like the statue of Sekhemka.  If auction house prices rise, so do the profits of the criminal and terrorist traffickers and forgers [2] .

However, it is still not too late for you to turn Britain's shame in being party to such an unethical sale into pride at Britain working with the Egyptian people to make amends for this indelible stain on Britain's cultural reputation.  

We are asking you to make an urgent public intervention with Christie's and the buyer of the Sekhemka statue and ask the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to broker a binding agreement whereby the statue remains in the UK on free public display in a British museum.

We are also asking you to make clear that you deplore the sale of publicly held museum collections for profit in a way which can only drive up the prices and the rewards for such unethical behaviour.

The only thing preventing such an intervention is the will of the British Government to be seen to do the right thing, while your intervention will not just preserve a beautiful and uniquely evocative example of Egypt's ancient art and culture for the public and visitors to Britain to enjoy.  It will send a message that Britain cares about the cultural jewels it has in its care and will not in future allow them to be exploited for short term gain in a way which only encourages criminals, traffickers and terrorists to set out to loot and sell more.
 

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