Paintings found at church

2012-11-14 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — Staff at the Pretoria Art Museum were overjoyed yesterday when four of the five paintings stolen on Sunday were found at a Port Elizabeth church.

The paintings, by some of the country’s leading 20th century artists, were found under a bench in the garden of remembrance at a Dutch Reformed church in the suburb of Sunridge Park, after a tip-off.

An informed source said a Port Elizabeth man was contacted about the pictures and immediately alerted police. Members of the dog unit recovered the paintings at about 12.30 am.

The recovered works are Irma Stern’s Fishing Boats (1931), Maggie Laubser’s Cat and Petunias (1936), JH Pierneef’s drawing Eland and Bird and Hugo Naudé’s Hottentot Chief.

“It is a huge relief for Pretoria and for art lovers worldwide and we were overjoyed when we heard the artworks had been found,” said Pieter de Necker, spokesperson for the mayor of Tshwane.

Museum curator Dirk Oegema said he would finally be able to sleep again.

De Necker said it was sad that Gerard Sekoto’s Street Scene, which is worth about R7 million, was not found, but said he was sure the police would do their best to track it down.

He said there would be talks today to decide when the pictures could be returned to Pretoria, where the museum is closed while security is improved.

The CCTV was not working when the paintings were stolen by three armed men, who had a list of the paintings they wanted.

Gavin Theart, the security guard at the church, said he didn’t hear or see anything odd before the paintings were found.

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