Two signed Damien Hirst pictures, worth around £33,000, were stolen from an art gallery in Notting Hill – just four days after going on display.
The art was stolen between 3am and 3.30am on Monday morning from Exhibitionist Gallery, when a thief forced open the front doors before leaving in a dark hatch-back heading towards Ladbroke Grove. Police believe that the artworks would have been visible in the back of the car as it drove away.
Detective Sergeant Jon Lightfoot, from Kensington and Chelsea Borough, said: "It appears the suspect has specifically targeted the two pieces.” Several other works were left behind by the thief (or thieves) who took only the most recognisable Hirst works."
The gallery, which claims on its website to have featured the likes of Lichtenstein, Warhol and Banksy, has only recently opened in the area.
Manager Nathan Engelbrecht said: “It's an immense disappointment. We're a relatively new gallery, so it was something of a coup for us to get these works in the first place. For them to be stolen after four days is a total shock and a hit in the gut. Obviously we're hoping that the police find them or that the insurance covers it because as a young gallery this would obviously be a huge financial hit. We can only hope that through the police, the press and the public we will be able to retrieve the works.”
The gallery has already re-opened and is looking for pieces to replace the stolen art.
The two works “Pyronin Y”, worth £15,000 and “Oleoylsarcosine”, worth £18,000, were created in 2005 and 2008 respectively and feature multi-coloured dots. Damien Hirst's representatives stated only that “this is a police matter and I'm afraid we cannot comment”.
Hirst, who won the Turner Prize in 1995, is Britain's richest living artist, and is best known for his works featuring a 14-foot tiger shark and a diamond encrusted skull.
Police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the thief driving away to assist them with their investigation.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Serious Acquisitive Crime Unit at Notting Hill Police Station on 020 8246 0230 or, to remain anonymous, Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
By Jonny Singer