‘Priceless’ artworks stolen from NT museum
Darwin Police are investigating the theft of seven Aboriginal paintings from the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery.
Security staff at the museum alerted the police at 4:20am ACST after noticing thieves had smashed a window to get inside.
Police say the paintings were stolen from the building’s main area.
It has been confirmed six Papunya Tula style paintings from the Western Desert and a central Australian watercolour painting have been taken.
The paintings are all highly regarded.
Darwin Police Watch Commander Bob Harrison says an investigation is underway.
“We’ve had the museum staff initially attend it [the scene] and they’ve told us that the value of the paintings is priceless,” he said.
Watch Commander Harrison says people should be on the lookout for the stolen art.
“We’d certainly be warning people if they were approached by anyone with paintings that are too good to be true they probably are,” he said.
“We are waiting for a description which will be certainly circulating once we have it in hand, and we’ll be certainly looking in the normal areas to try and locate these paintings.”
Darwin Police say a person is in custody in relation to the theft of $500,000 worth of Aboriginal art from the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery.
Security staff alerted the police at 4:20am ACST after noticing thieves had smashed a window to get inside.
Six Papunya Tula paintings and a central Australian watercolour were taken.
Territory Police have arrested a 37-year-old man over the theft. Officers say he was picked up at a Parap bus stop.
Assistant Police Commissioner Graeme Kelly says all seven works were recovered just before midday.
Senior Constable Brad Currie says it does not appear to be an organised crime and the man is known to police.
“He’ll be interviewed and is expected to be charged with unlawful damage, criminal damage and stealing,” he said.
Gallery staff will meet tomorrow to assess security at the site.
A Northern Territory Government spokesman says the paintings were found hidden amongst bushes less than 500 metres from where they were stolen.
Museum director Anna Malgorzewicz told a media conference some of the works have been soiled but can be restored.
“As one can expect, they’ve been stressed, they’re slightly soiled but they are in very good condition,” she said.
“They are [easy to clean up], the works have already been returned to the museum and gallery and they’re currently in our conservation laboratory where are conservators are condition reporting them.”
The seven paintings included six boards by the Papunya Tula group from the Western Desert and one water colour from central Australia.
Ms Malgorzewicz says while they are not the most valuable in the gallery, the paintings are historically significant.
“It’s a historic collection, a very significant collection of works,” she said.
“We have quite a number here in our collection. Created in the early 1970s, they are a body of work. One of the first bodies of work from that particular area, so [they are] historically very significant.”
Ms Malgorzewicz says the alarms rang straight away, but there was still time for the thieves to get away with the loot.
“They were very quick. We understand it was about 15 or so minutes in the gallery,” she said.