The artist who designed a $55,000 gnome sculpture which was stolen from an Auckland gallery said he is "very happy" for its safe return.
The sculpture, named Thinker, by renowned artist Gregor Kregar, was stolen from outside Gow Langsford Gallery on Christmas Eve.
However, it was found in West Auckland yesterday after it was dropped off at the Glen Eden Salvation Army with a note saying "Please return to Gow Langsford Art Gallery Auckland".
Kregar told the Herald he was very happy the gnome was found and is not damaged.
"It is hard to survive as an artist and this kind of work takes a lot of resources and time to produce," he said.
"It would be very hard to replace this sculpture and it is great to have him back."
Kregar said he wondered why the bronze sculpture was stolen in first place.
"It would be very hard to sell it as an artwork or as scrap metal," he said.
The theft was reported to police once the gallery's owner discovered it was missing last Saturday.
Gallery director Gary Langsford said the thieves spent an hour removing the 2m-tall bronze gnome just before midnight on Christmas Eve.
CCTV footage showed the men bending down and using an instrument to unbolt the 80-100kg statue from the concrete plinth.
Gow said they're then seen rocking the gnome side to side, eventually wriggling it free.
They left the scene about 12.45am on Christmas Day, putting the statue into a vehicle parked outside the Gallery's Kitchener St entrance.
Yesterday, after the sculpture had been missing for three weeks, the gallery received a call from police to report it had been found.
Salvation Army worker Neil Arnold told the Herald a giant gnome was the last thing he thought he'd find on his way to work.
"I got out of the car and I thought someone was playing some sort of joke with a gnome standing at the front door," he said.
"When I got closer I thought, hang on, it looks like the one that was stolen.
"My first thought was this was kind of weird, why leave it here? It looks like they've handled with care where they put it, they didn't just dump it."
Anna Jackson, director of Gow Langsford Gallery, said the statue was found in "pretty good condition".
"He will need a bit of a clean and a polish and then I think we will put him on show in our Lorne St gallery seeing as though he is a bit of a celebrity now - so people will get the chance to see him," she said.
Waitemata Police detective senior sergeant Roger Small said the theft was one of the more bizarre thefts he's heard of.
"It's not something that's exactly common, but we're very glad this artwork can now be returned to the gallery," he said.
Police reported yesterday that they will be assessing CCTV footage and examining the sculpture to try to find those who may have been responsible for taking it.