Po­lice alert In­ter­pol on Lin­daeur art heist

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - ANNA LOREN AND TORIKA TOKALAU-CHAN­DRA

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.

CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIR­FAX NZ

The In­ter­na­tional Art Cen­tre in Par­nell was ram raided on April 1.

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