Gallery bronzed off by art theft

Direc­tor says statue in­stalled just a week be­fore it was taken

The New Zealand Herald - - News - Belinda Feek

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.

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