National | Arts

Korowai stolen from Wellington art gallery

A korowai destined for a Matariki exhibition opening this Friday at Kura Gallery in Wellington has allegedly been stolen by a man who appeared to be homeless.

Gallery curator Hannah Amu says the korowai, made by renowned Māori weaver Gary J Grace, was stolen on Tuesday sometime between 3.30pm and 6pm during the installation of another exhibition.

“We had three staff members here moving things in and out and so the front doors were open,” she says.

“Nobody knew it had been taken. We have a feeling that the man who took it, there were actually two other guys who made a diversion and took all of our attention at the other end of the gallery.”

Update: The korowai has been returned. Thank you to the Wellington community and NZ Police for helping us get back our...

Posted by Kura Gallery Wellington on Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The staff at the gallery took to Facebook yesterday to ask for help.

“We had about four people come forward to talk about what they witnessed on Tuesday night around 9pm.  There was a male on the corner of Tory and Courtney Place trying to sell the korowai,” she says.

“He was Māori, five foot six and had a large tattoo on his right cheekbone. Basically, he was saying that he made it and that he was trying to sell it.”

According to the gallery's website, the korowai was valued at $10,780, sized 102cm by 128cm and made from jute, wool, hukahuka and black taniko.  The taniko design represents Mako shark teeth.

The gallery purchased the korowai from the designer and it has been with them for 10 years.  Amu says the loss is devastating.

“We’re pretty gutted that someone would come and steal such an important taonga that is not only a symbol for our Māori culture but also someone’s livelihood as well.”

Staff at the gallery are working with police and people who have come forth with information to find the taonga.