The International Art Centre in Parnell is open for business today, despite its patched facade baring the marks of this weekend's ram-raid.

Three people are thought to be behind this weekend's theft of two Gottfried Lindauer paintings from the art gallery in the early hours of Saturday.

A reporter at the scene described the window, where the two paintings had been plucked from as being boarded up with a temporary wall; that section of the gallery is closed to the public.

A number of sculptures, oil frescoes and other artworks remained on display in the remaining windows.


The NZME reporter spoke to staff at the scene, but was told no further comment would be made while the police investigation continued.

Police said this morning it was likely three people were involved; with two inside a ute and another in a white car.

Detective Inspector Scott Baird said thieves had used a stolen ute to back into the International Art Centre in Parnell about 4am, while another was in a white 2016 Holden Commodore SSV6.

Police said a description of the people being sought would be released later today.

Earlier this morning a former FBI arts theft investigator labelled the theft of the two masterpieces as unsophisticated.

Robert Wittman told Newstalk ZB's Rachel Smalley it was unlikely those responsible had a clear plan when they crashed a ute through the glass front of the Parnell gallery.

"Ultimately this wasn't a sophisticated robbery, it was more of spur of the moment; some individuals who saw some value and said 'this is what we are going to do'."

Wittman who has been involved in arts thefts investigations for more than 30 years said it was unlikely the heist was "made to order".


"Usually what I've always seen is individuals take these things as they want to try to monetise them."

He told Smalley while they might have successfully made off with the goods it was a "terrible" business plan.

"When it comes to art, they are considered to be very valuable," he said. "But they don't realise until after they have it, now they have a problem, because really it's difficult to sell in any kind of market."

Masterfully crafted by celebrated artist Gottfried Lindauer in 1884, the highly-valuable works are known as known as Chieftainess Ngatai - Raure and Chief Ngatai - Raure and are estimated to be worth about $1 million together.

New Zealand Police have begun investigations into the heist, gathering forensic evidence and asking for any eye-witnesses who were in the area around the time of the theft, between 3:30am and 4am on Saturday.

Wittman told Smalley the only way the thieves would likely get away with the crime was if no evidence was left behind.

In this case he said there was evidence that risked placing them at the scene; marks and damage caused by the ram-raid, CCTV footage, eye-witness accounts and a "lot of forensic evidence".

"That's what gets you caught."

He said the good news was in most cases, the paintings were recovered.

"The famous pieces like this, 95 per cent come back. The one time they don't come back is if they are destroyed."

He said even if they were holed up in a closet somewhere, the paintings would come to market at some point; be it through an inheritance or discovery, as there would be a record of their theft.

Anyone with information as to the paintings' whereabouts or theft is asked to contact Auckland police on 09 302 6832, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

International Art Centre director Richard Thomson expressed his desire that the "priceless Taonga" were returned not just because of their value but because they were "clearly in the hands of the wrong people".

However, because the theft was still being actively investigated he said it could be viewed as irresponsible to comment further at this stage.