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Valuable art stolen from university

Published: 1:55PM Friday January 05, 2007 Source: One News/Newstalk ZB

Thieves have broken into Auckland University's library building over the holidays and made off with valuable art works, including a Charles Goldie portrait.

Police and art experts say the items, all very specific to New Zealand culture, would be very hard to sell.

The works were held in a secure room in the depths of the library building and all that is left is a bare wall and the holes where screws kept two of the works in place.

"We are concerned that it has shown a lapse in our security and we have increased security," says Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Raewyn Dalziel.

A case with reinforced glass which housed an Oxford Lectern bible valued at around $100,000 was smashed while the 86-year-old Goldie portrait valued at more than $100,000 was also taken.

The painting, Hori Pokai: Planning Revenge, was returned only last month by a Canadian collector after a 70 year absence.

Manuscripts containing poems by Colin Mccahon have also been taken.

University staff believe the thief or thieves got into the premises by prising open the lock which held fast the top part of a window and simply climbed up through it.

"Everything comes down to greed in these sorts of crimes so at this stage the motive is theft and greed," says Detective Sergeant Rick Veacock.

"We're keeping an open mind on what they could have been taken for - whether they've been kept for the domestic market or the overseas market."

Art dealer and auctioneer Peter Webb says he does not know of any black market in New Zealand for art and he says there would only be a limited market overseas. He says anyone who knows about the artists would be "very suspicious".

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