A new gallery bringing fine art to Sunderland city centre has been broken into less than a month after opening.
Police are investigating after thieves smashed a display window at Frederick Street Gallery over the weekend, stealing artworks worth hundreds of pounds.
Only last week the Echo reported how artist Ken Devine had returned to his home city after years living abroad to open an independent gallery, which has transformed a former storage building on the corner of Frederick Street and Athenaeum Street.
He was contacted by police on Sunday evening to say that his new business had been broken into sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday.
The artist said: “It’s very sad and frustrating. The gallery only had its first preview evening on July 5 so for this to happen is not the best of starts. It’s not good for city centre businesses, especially small, independent businesses like me. And it’s not good for the community in general.”
As well as damage to the display window, which has since been boarded up, the vandals stole artworks by Colin Rutter, as well as boat sculptures by Ronnie Fulton.
Ken said: “One of the artists whose work was stolen joked that he is flattered that someone would risk physical injury and a criminal record to get their hands on his art works.”
The business owner also was also defiant in the face of the crime, and wrote a note on the boarding of the broken window saying: “I’m losing heART, but not my soul. Back tomorrow, I need the Monet.”
After months of renovations, Frederick Street Gallery is now a space to showcase Ken’s work, as well as those by other artists, with regularly-changing exhibitions. The first display, Coast, is inspired by the recent Tall Ships Races and features dozens of works inspired by the sea, from a wall sculpture featuring glass from Seaham Beach to paintings of fishing boats.
Ken said: “Sadly, in this part of the city I’m not the only one affected by crimes like this. The police have been very good, but there’s very little we can do, other than keep a watch and observe. The art works stolen are quite distinctive, so hopefully someone will spot them.”
A spokesperson from Northumbria Police said: “On Sunday, July 22, police received a report of a theft from an art gallery on Athenaeum Street, Sunderland.
“Offenders are believed to have stolen two pieces of artwork, to the value of approximately £600, after smashing a window. Enquiries are ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference 681 220718.”