The owner of an Auckland art gallery is baffled and upset after a small sculpture was stolen in broad daylight while her back was turned.

A small marble sculpture of a crushed gin and tonic can was stolen from Sanderson Gallery in Parnell on Wednesday.

"We were just in the gallery, looked back at the display and there was a piece missing out of it," says director Kylie Sanderson.

Worth nearly $2000, the piece by artist Martin Selman was on display as part of the gallery's current exhibition when someone apparently pocketed it and walked out.


Ms Sanderson said the thief must have taken it because they liked the tactile nature of the object - particularly since such a distinctive stolen object will be difficult to on-sell.

Mr Selman said of the theft, "It's interesting to me that someone felt they like the work enough to steal it.

"I suppose it's flattering in a way, but at the same time I have to wonder how they could enjoy looking at it while knowing that it's been stolen from someone."

The gallery is not insured for the theft because it happened when they were open for business. "If they'd broken in and stolen it, it would be covered," Ms Sanderson said.

This is only the second time in ten years that a piece has been stolen from the gallery.

"It's not what you need. We're just a small business with only three staff here. A loss like that is quite a big deal for us."

The gallery is asking for anyone with any information about the piece to contact them directly. A reward is being offered for the return of the work.