World record Egyptian statue achieves 161% increase on estimate

An Egyptian limestone statue of Sekhemka has set a new world record for a piece of Egyptian art at auction.

The lot crossed the block in Christie's Exceptional sale in London on July 10 where it sold for £15.7m ($27m) - exceeding its £6m ($10.2m) estimate by 161.6%.

Sekhemka statue
The statue of Sekhemka sold for a world record £15.7m ($27m) at Christie's

The statue, which dates to the era of the old kingdom (circa 2400-2300 BC) and depicts an inspector of the scribes, was donated to the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery in the 19th century and was sold by the local council to fund an extension for the building.

The sale attracted a high degree of controversy, with the Arts Council stating that the museum could lose its accreditation as a result.

Comic book writer Alan Moore voiced his annoyance to the BBC, stating that the sale was "undercutting one of the fundamental principles by which museums acquire artefacts in their collections.

"I've donated things to the museum. But I would not be able to do that again in the knowledge that at some point in the future that gifts, made in good faith, could be sold off by a council."

Egyptian Ambassador Ahsraf Elkholy told the BBC that the auction represented "an abuse to the Egyptian archaeology and the cultural property".

"Our objection starts from this basic principle: how can a museum sell a piece in its collection when it should be on display to the public?

"It's not ethical that it will be sold for profit and also not acceptable."

He went on to say that he was concerned that the piece would end up in a private collection and that the council should have consulted with the government of Egypt prior to the sale. 

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