New Zealand artist CF Goldie’s Sleep ’tis a Gentle Thing’ was stolen along with many other unique works of art and antiques. Photo / NZ Police
A major seller of Goldie’s paintings in the country said a piece depicting a late Māori rangatira reportedly stolen today would be worth more than a million dollars.
The Waikato police are looking for information regarding the robbery, including a painting titled Sleep ’tis a Gentle Thing, by Ngāti Maru and chief Ngāti Paoa Hori Pokai, by New Zealand artist Charles Frederick Goldie.
Police believe it occurred in the Hamilton East area between 27 December 2020 and 3 January 2021.
Other artwork and antiques were stolen, including Koch & Bergfeld’s tableware.
Goldie’s most expensive piece, A Noble Relic of a Noble Race, from chief Ngāti Manawa Wharekauri Tahuna, sold for $ 1,337,687 at an International Arts Center auction in Auckland in 2016.
Director Richard Thomson said he sold another version of the stolen painting in 2008 for a record price of $ 454,000.
“So that’s a million dollars plus artwork that’s on the market today. I’ve sold dozens of Goldies, and it’s a really good example of his work, it has all the advantages.
“I’m quite annoyed [the burglary]. This is a very important national treasure. The owner is the keeper, but the country owns it, really. “
The stolen painting was most likely done between 1933 and 1938, when Goldie was in his sixties.
While Goldie’s previous work tends to fetch the highest price, Thomson says the 2016 record was set in 1941.
Despite his high ratings, Thomson said he thought it would be “worthless” in the hands of the thief.
“There is absolutely no market for it now in the wrong hands. It’s a stupid thing to do and all they’ll get is bad karma.
“My advice is to come back as quickly and safely as possible.”
Webb auction house art chief Charles Ninow said another version of the painting was sold, at a different auction house, in 2012 for $ 280,000.
He believes in today’s market it will be worth “easily over $ 500,000”.
“I remember selling it at a higher than average price, but the market has since been wild for Goldie. His art is just one of those things whose value goes up every year.”
Ninow said he thought it would be rated a little lower than the previous work because of Goldie’s age at the time.
“When he was younger in his career he was in a better mental state, and did this very detailed painting. As they get older they become a little more poetic, looser, and that can affect grades.”
Having such a painting stolen would be of great concern not only to the owner, but also to Māori, who regarded the depiction of tūpuna, the ancestor, as “embodying vairua, soul, nurturer”.
“So, stealing it and not knowing it exists is a huge loss for Aotearoa, for our culture and our nation.”
Ninow said the thieves likely knew what they were doing.
“His works were instantly recognizable, he was very famous, like Colin McCahon. Everyone knows them, and very much sought after. If you’ve seen him in person, it’s very different to you.”
But Ninow believes that it is “impossible” to sell underground.
“The New Zealand art market is bigger than most people think, but it’s still small, and unlikely to be sold through traditional channels. Once it is known that a work has dubious origins, no one will touch it.
“With the stolen works, we often never know what happened to them. They move through these underground channels and we never see them again, but I really hope that doesn’t happen and we can see them again.”
The police asked members of the public for information or possible sightings of the stolen items.
“This is definitely a very special legacy and we want to return it to its owner as quickly as possible,” said Constable Ben Monk of Hamilton’s Tactical Crime Unit.
“If you have information, please call the police on 105 and excerpt file 210103/2961.
“Alternatively, you can call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.”