In a statement just released, ten influential public bodies, including Arts Council England, the Museums Association, the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, hit out at "unethical" deaccessioning and threatened to blacklist "organisations that choose to act outside the widely adopted standards for managing and caring for public collections".
A spokeswomen for Arts Council England (ACE) told ATG: "The joint statement developed out of a number of discussions between ACE, the Museums Association and the other signatories over the past year in response to increasing concern about the unethical sale of public collections.
"We feel it important to be as clear as possible that there is a shared sector position around such activity and to highlight the likely consequences if the well-established sector ethics and standards are not respected."
These consequences will be primarily financial. The statement says that museums that choose to sell "will find that it has a direct impact on their relationships with development bodies and funders and the ability to access support. Likewise, loss of accreditation is likely to affect the ability to access potential partners, loans and donations."
The ACE say that austerity restrictions on public funding are no excuse for the thinning out of store cupboards. "We understand that museums face real economic challenges, but we do not accept that unethical sale from museum collections is an effective solution to the greater challenges that museums face and, indeed, risks distracting from dealing with the core issues."
The statement coincided with an export stop placed on the most notorious in a series of recent 'deaccessioning' sales: the £14m sale to an overseas buyer at Christie's in July 2014 of Northampton Museum's c.2400BC Sekhemka Egyptian statue.
Northampton Borough Council said it needed the extra funding to build an extension to the town's museum and art gallery. Lord Northampton, whose ancestors gifted the statue to the museum in the 19th century, also received part of the windfall. Northampton Museums had since have their accreditation removed by the Arts Council.
The temporary four-month export stop could be extended until March next year if a serious intention is made to match the sale price (a premium-inclusive £15.76m) and keep the statue in the UK.
Other recent headline sales included the disposal of 24 items from Croydon's Riesco Collection of Chinese ceramics at Christies Hong Kong in 2013 for a premium-inclusive £8.24m. Croydon council was expelled from the Museums Association after choosing to proceed with the sale.