Recent News

2023 NEWS

JUNE: Art theft movie part of the DocEdge film festival.

Looking to learn more about the motivations of an art theft? The DocEdge Film Festival is showing The Thief Collector (2022) on 3 June 2023 at 7pm at The Capitol, Auckland, or 17 June 2023 at 10.30am (The Roxy Cinema, Wellington). Go along if you can. Tickets can be found here.

APRIL: Waterfront sculpture targetted … again.

In April we read the terrible news that a Len Lye sculpture Water Whirler worth $300,000 on Wellington’s waterfront had been attacked by four people, all caught on CCTV.  In 2018, the artwork had been targetted by another person “bored out of his brain” (his words, not our’s) who was later caught, fined $1000 and 150 hours of community service. We hope the latest vandals are found soon.

JAN: Royal Honour for one of our Trustees!

We congratulate Penny Jackson (MNZM) on being recognised for her service to art crime research and visual arts in the New Years Honours List. As Chair of our Trust, Penny has worked tirelessly to advocate to bring awareness of the dark side of the art world alive and kicking in Aotearoa New Zealand. She writes passionately about aspects of NZ art crime.  Read more about her here and here.

Previously ….

A little taster of the speakers featuring in this Saturday’s Art Crime Symposium:

Listen to Penny Jackson, our NZACRT Chair, talk about what’s coming up here. Registrations are still open here or walk in on the day! Our welcome starts at 9 and the day ends by 5. Morning and afternoon teas are provided. Nau mai, haere mai – welcome!

In advance of the 2022 symposium …

The meeting house Hinemihi is to be returned to Aotearoa. Opened in 1881  at Te Wairoa and carved for Aporo Te Wharekaniwha (Ngāti Hinemihi) by Wero Taroi and Tene Waitere in the 1880s, the house sheltered local people when Tarawera erupted on 10 June 1886. Later, when the Governor General Lord Onslow returned home to the UK, he purchased the house, and had her er-erected next to his stately home of Clandon Park, just out of London. In the coming weeks, a delegation of 48 from Rotorua is travelling to England with new carvings, and bringing Hinemihi home with them. Read about it here.

Is it copying or is it forgery?

Listen to our very own NZACRT Trustee Penelope Jackson talk about the topic, here.

Take Five: Key things to know about art crime in New Zealand.

NZACRT Trustee Penelope Jackson talked last week about some interesting cases that have been happening over the past few years. Listen here.

Half an hour to steal a statue.

This story shows the extent to which a thief will go to steal a sculpture. Read here.

Even in 2022 some overseas seem to think Maori culture is still up for grabs – this time, in Germany.

Rangi McLean, a well-known figure around Auckland and Chair of the Papakura Marae is rightly furious that a German artist is using an image of him as the basis for his paintings. Read the story here.

Whakairo (carving) recovered as part of arrest of man in North Canterbury.

At the arrest of a man for theft, Police recovered a whakairo stolen from the Ngai Tahu pa at Kaiapoi (established 1700, dispersed 1823). Recoveries like these are few and far between. Read more here.

+ story update 21 June 2022 + The NZ Herald just published a story querying why the Police were being asked to value the carving that had been stolen for the purposes of prosecution. The three current charges have to be for an object which is worth less than $1000 which this whakairo certainly won’t! Check out the story here.

Theft of a cross from the high altar at St Matthew in-the-city on 13 May mid-afternoon – do you know this person from CCTV?

In broad daylight, at the end of the working week a man strolled into the city church and stole a cross right from the high altar. Do you know this man? See the story here.

The future of Te Hau ki Turanga, wharenui extraordinaire!

With the Crown returning Rongowhakaata’s whare whakairo Te Hau ki Turanga (1842-5) as part of their Waitangi Settlement and the closing of the iwi exhibition at Te Papa Tongarewa, discussions now turn the future of Raharuhi Rukupo’s house. Known as the earliest surviving whare whakairo, the meeting house features steel-carved whakairo/carvings, complex kowhaiwhai and delicate tukutuku. Read stories about the issue from stuff here and here.

Vandalism of public statues continues.

Yet another statue has been beheaded, this time in Matakana. A memorial to King George V had his head taken off a few days ago. Read the story here. We wonder whether this might be included in a second edit of Fallen Idols: Twelve statues that made history by Alex von Tunzelman (2021) or form one point of call for an art crime tour of NZ – now there’s an idea!!

Thieves becoming more audacious!

A 50 kilo bronze sculpture by Marté Szirmay entitled Split was stolen early morning on 4 May 2022. Read more about it here. This is the latest of a series of public artworks which have been taken, though most have turned up (damaged) later.


Photo: Wallace Arts Trust.

Update on the theft of the mere pounamu from Auckland Museum.

In March 2019 in broad daylight, a mere pounamu named Pokaiwhenua, once cared for by the carver Iwirakau, was removed from his clear perspex case and taken out of the Museum (see the Stuff story here and one by Te Ao Maori News here. Within a month the alleged perpetrator had been identified, but the mere was not turned over. However, behind the scenes negotiations were underway between two iwi/tribes, which resulted in the return of the mere in March 2022 (see TV1 story here). Ngai Tahu arranged for the mere to be blessed (see image below). The thief had taken the mere believing it to be one belonging to Ngai Tahu; in actual fact, the taonga/treasure was cared for by Ngati Porou. Everyone was relieved that Pokaiwhenua was at last in safe hands.

blessing of pokaiwhenua

Photo: Still from 1News story.

ARCA is holding its annual conference once again.

Both Arthur and Penelope have spoken and enjoyed the Annual Interdisciplinary Art Crime Conference. This year’s dates have been confirmed as 5-7 August 2022 in the Collegio Boccarini Conference Hall (adjacent to the Museo Civico Archeologico e Pinacoteca Edilberto Rosa), in Amelia, Italy. They are currently calling for panel and paper proposals. These are due by 15 June 2022. For more information, see their webpage here.

AUT’s Art Law paper fully subscribed! and other courses.

Rod Thomas is running a course entitled Art Law which is available as part of a Bachelor of Laws at AUT. The description is: ‘Introduces students to the operation of the visual arts world. The course is divided into three parts. Part A consists of an introduction to relevant overriding concepts such as “what is art?”; art, obscenity and morality; moral and legal issues arising from repatriation art works; and art as a commercial construct. Part B looks at the workings of the commercial art world in New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, overseas. Part C examines the relevance of art in the community by examining the operation of art galleries and whether selective works of visual art should receive enhanced protection by virtue of serving a key societal function.’ Here’s hoping he might offer it again in 2023. For more information, see here.

Simon Mackenzie has also taught in the area of art crime, specifically Transnational Crime which includes antiquities trafficking, at Victoria University of Wellington. However, as he is currently Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, those of you in Wellington may have to wait a year or few before this might be offered again.

In Auckland, Ngarino Ellis is offering her Art Crime course, listed in Art History as a stage 2 or 3 paper, in the first semester 2023. This covers the art market, looting, illicit antiquities, theft, forgery and vandalism, both internationally and in NZ. More information is available here.

For those of you interested in online courses, we note that Sotheby’s Institute of Art is offering a new 6-week course entitled Art Crime (6 July-16 Aug 2022) taught by Gareth Fletcher. This includes art market, forgery, theft in World War 2, repatriation, ethics and the future of art crime. See more here.

Update on the theft of two Lindauer portraits from the International Art Centre, Parnell, Auckland.

A well-planned smash-n-grab on 1 April 2017 netted the thieves with two important portraits by Czech-born colonial painter Gottfried Lindauer. A new article here reveals the extent to which the theft was highly planned and executed. There have been many theories as to the motive (ransom, angry family, barter on the dark web), but the paintings remain at large.

2021 NEWS

Should Canterbury Museum repatriate the Benin Bronzes in their collection?

This has been very much in the news lately with a number of articles and news reports about  this, including an interview with the Museum’s Head of Collections and Research, Sarah Murray, on Radio NZ here. There is also an article from 2014 written by Sarah and Roger Fyfe which introduces us to the collections and its history here. In the last NZACRT symposium, Arthur Tompkins mentioned some of his thoughts on the matter.

Relatedly: even Gore has a small collection: read about it here.

Theft of ‘Goldie’ in Hamilton

See a Stuff news article about the theft here, a RNZ article about arrests being made here, and an opinion piece about ‘why is it poor old Goldie?’ here.

The 2021 Journal of Art Crime also features New Zealanders with the focus of a Special Issue on the South Pacific, edited by NZACRT Trustee Penelope Jackson.

You will recognise many of the authors from our symposia, including:

  • Rod Thomas on ‘Art Auction Legal Liability and Risk – A New Zealand Perspective’
  • Tarisi Vunidilo on ‘Stolen Art in Paradise: Stories of Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Properties in Oceania’
  • Catherine Gardner on ‘V is for Vandalism’
  • Louisa Gommans on ‘Te Hokinga Mai – The Return: Repatriation of Māori and Moriori 113 Ancestral Human Remains from International Institutions Home to New Zealand’
  • Ngarino Ellis on ‘Vandalism of Māori Art’, and
  • Penny Jackson reviewing Provenance Research Today, and (with Pamelia James) ‘Revisiting the 1977 Grace Cossington Smith Exhibition Art Heist.’

2020 NEWS

10 August 2020: Art thief’s audacious heist from “Haus of Flox” shop in Auckland

See the news article here

11 May 2020: Trustee Penelope Jackson (art crime expert) spoke to Jesse Mulligan on RNZ about recent brazen art crimes in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic

Listen here

April 2020: Precious stolen manuscript by 14th Century Persian poet Hafez, now recovered, will be sold at auction in April

See the news article here

March 2020: Van Gogh painting stolen from Dutch museum during coronavirus lockdown (and on the day of Van Gogh’s birthday)!

See the news article here 

March 2020: Holy theft: the Auckland church hit by a Jesus statue burglary has been targeted again

See the news article here

3 March 2020: “Last Seen – America’s biggest art heist” on Afternoons with Jessie Mulligan, Radio NZ

Listen to the full interview here

The 2019 Journal of Art Crime – featuring New Zealanders!

The latest issue of the Journal of Art Crime (Spring 2019) features two New Zealanders:

  • a paper by Rod Thomas (Associate Professor at the Law School, Auckland University of Technology) about “Recovery of Art by Vindication of Property Rights”.  Thomas was a presenter at ArtCrime2019. 
  • a review of Penelope Jackson’s latest book Females in the Frame: Women, Art, and Crime.

We have more information about the Journal of Art Crime and how to subscribe on the ARCA tab of our website – here.

ARCA Blog – Interview with Lecturers ahead of the 2020 Postgraduate Programme in Umbria, Italy. 

In the months leading up to the 2020 ARCA (Association for Research into Crime Against Art) Postgraduate Programme, their Blog featured interviews with the the lecturers.  The first interview was with Noah Charney, founder of ARCA.  You can read the blog here on ARCA’s website (and you can sign up to receive updates whenever a new blog is posted).

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