Police alert Interpol on Lindaeur art heist
There was ‘‘no evidence of political motivation’’ in the theft of two valuable Gottfried Lindauer paintings from an Auckland auction house, police say.
Thieves smashed into the International Art Centre in Parnell and took the paintings about 4am on Saturday.
The two portraits, Chieftainess Ngatai – Raure and Chief Ngatai-Raure, date from 1884.
International Art Centre spokesman Ian Stuart said the paintings, which were due to be auctioned on April 4, were worth between $350,000 and $450,000 each.
Police said officers had recovered the stolen vehicle used in the ram raid but were looking for another vehicle that was seen leaving the scene.
‘‘Police are seeking any information relating to the theft of these two paintings and would like to hear from anybody that was in the Parnell area between 3.30 and 4am this morning or anyone who may have information about the current whereabouts of these paintings.’’
Auckland Central police area commander Inspector Matt Srhoj said Interpol had been notified of the thefts.
The ram raid had happened ‘‘very quickly’’, but there was evidence of ‘‘significant planning’’, he said.
Lindauer painted hundreds of portraits of Maori chiefs and leaders in 19th and early 20th centuries.
International Art Centre director Richard Thomson said while Lindauer’s Maori art did not yet command prices as high as Charles Frederick Goldie’s, art lovers and investors recognised his works as some of the finest portraits of Maori kaumatua (elders).
Anyone with information was asked to call Auckland Police on 09 302 6832 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Art historian and author Penelope Jackson said art crime - including theft, fraud and forgery - was more widespread in New Zealand than most people knew.
‘‘Anywhere there is art history, there is a history of art crime, unfortunately.’’
Jackson said there was little the thieves would make from selling the Lindauer paintings, if that was the intention of the heist.
She said it could be the work of an opportunist.
The International Art Centre in Parnell was ram raided on April 1.