Police have appealed for the return of thousands of prints by Hackney artist Stik that were supposed to be included in the September edition of council newspaper Hackney Today as gifts for local residents.
The artworks, posters of Stik’s 2016 Holding Hands piece, were created to celebrate the recent installation of the Holding Hands sculpture in Hoxton Square, and the artist’s intention was for every household in the borough to receive a copy.
But police say it appears that “somewhere along the supply and distribution chain” for Hackney Today, boxes containing thousand of the posters were “taken without permission and sold on”.
The theft came to light after Stik, who funded the cost of the printing out of his own pocket, spotted large batches of the artworks being sold online and reported it to the police and to the council.
The artist said: “These artworks were intended as a gift to the people of Hackney, and any which are returned will be re-distributed to those who missed out.”
Around 1,000 prints have been returned after unsuspecting fans realised they had bought the pieces in a way that was not in the spirit the artist intended.
A large number remain unaccounted for, and the artist, police and Hackney Council are calling for their safe return.
DC James Readman of Central East Command Unit said: “The artist began this project as a gift to the people of Hackney and paid a substantial amount of money out of his own pocket to meet the cost of printing.
“While some residents happily received theirs, many thousands of others were left very disappointed. We are working with the artist, and Hackney Council, to identify what was happened.
“It appears at this stage that somewhere along the supply and distribution chain, boxes containing thousands of copies of the print have been taken without permission and sold on.
“I urge anyone who has information as to the whereabouts of large quantities of the missing prints to make contact with us, so that we can right this wrong and help ensure they end up with the people that were intended to receive them.”
A spokesperson for the Town Hall said: “Stik’s posters were intended as a gift for Hackney’s residents after months of huge uncertainty and challenge. It is therefore disappointing to learn that an individual or group of individuals has chosen to steal them for personal gain.
“This has left residents who missed out upset and we are grateful to STIK and to everyone who has worked hard on the delivery of these posters and will do all we can to have them returned.”
Stik last week raised a staggering £287,500 to fund public artworks by local artists by auctioning off a maquette of Holding Hands at Christies, with the money to be distributed by Hackney Council in the coming months.
The sale price significantly exceeded the estimate of £80,000-£120,000 and is a new auction record for the world-renowned artist.
Anyone with information about the theft of the posters that could assist police is asked to call 101 ref CRIS 4626404/20