Gallery bronzed off by art theft
Director says statue installed just a week before it was taken
Brazen art thieves donned high-vis vests and spent an hour removing a 2m tall bronze gnome from outside an Auckland art gallery. The sculpture, named Thinker ,by artist Gregor Kregar, retails for $55,000 and was barely outside Gow Langsford Gallery for a week before it was taken.
Gallery director John Gow said the gnome was installed the week before Christmas and was deemed “very festive”.
Gow said three thieves arrived at the scene, on the corner of Wellesley and Kitchener Sts, about midnight Christmas Eve.
CCTV footage then shows the men bending down and using an instrument to unbolt the 80-100kg statue from the concrete plinth.
“I watched the artist [install] it and it was very securely fastened,” he said.
Gow said the men are then seen rocking the gnome side to side, eventually wriggling it free.
They left the scene about 12.45am on Christmas Day, putting the statue into a vehicle parked outside the Gallery’s Kitchener St entrance.
Gow said he hoped that the statue was currently sitting in someone’s backyard as it would be near worthless doing anything else with it.
“I’m hoping it’s sitting there as a keepsake otherwise they’ll be looking to melt the bronze down which would be a bizarre thing to do. In reality, the bronze is worth, maybe, $2000. Whereas the sculpture itself is a $55,000 object.
“I’m sure any scrap metal dealer, meeting someone turning up with something like that, will be scratching their head and asking a few questions.”
It was unclear what vehicle was used but CCTV had captured a “very
clear picture of a Caucasian male’s face”.
“They were mostly wearing hoodies but there was this one point where they weren’t and our security camera which is trained on the sculpture picked up his face.”
Staff discovered the statue was stolen on Saturday after horrified director Gary Langsford drove past and noticed it missing.
“I came straight in and could see that the work had been removed forcibly, through the chips around the edge of the concrete where the bolts went through and realised that we had a problem. And then when I reviewed the security footage sure enough there it was. I couldn’t believe it.” He phoned Kregar to tell him the news and the artist initially thought
he was joking. The gnome had been welcomed by the community in its short time; it had even been adorned with a Santa hat.
“People noticed it, people stood there and had their photo taken with it and it put smiles on people’s faces so for someone to come along and do this it’s just robbing the public of an experience they otherwise could have.”
John Gow says two men were caught on the gallery’s CCTV footage.