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$40K in art stolen from Victoria gallery in suspected targeted theft

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The owner of an art gallery in Victoria thinks a theft that occurred on Boxing Day was a targeted heist.

In less than two minutes, a lone man broke into the business and grabbed three small carvings valued at more than $40,000 combined.

Security video from inside the Madrona Gallery shows a man smash his way into the business carrying multiple duffel bags on Monday morning.

"They clearly knew what they were doing," said Michael Warren, director of the gallery.

The thief made out with three Inuit stone carvings weighing an estimated 14 kilograms each.

Warren says he thinks the theft was far more than a smash and grab and that the three works were specifically targeted.

"It didn't seem like a crime of opportunity," he said. "It was a beeline for those specific pieces."

Warren says the thief passed by other works in the gallery that have higher price tags.

Chris Lewis, CTV News' public safety analyst and a former commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, says art theft in Canada is rare – and when crimes related to art do occur, they often go unsolved.

"There's not a lot of expertise in Canada on art theft," said Lewis.

He noted that Canada's largest art theft, which occurred in 1972 and involved three men stealing $2-million worth of art pieces from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, was never solved.

Often times the works end up in someone's private collection and are never returned to their rightful owners, Lewis says.

"Sometimes police stumble across stolen property like art and get it returned to the lawful owner and many times not," he said.

Still, the Madrona Gallery is not giving up hope about retrieving the three statues.

Warren is asking anyone with information to speak with the art gallery or the Victoria Police Department, which is investigating the theft.

"You know, what I would love is if anybody has any information to contact the gallery," he said. "We’re offering a $1,000 reward per piece on their return, no questions asked."

The three stolen art pieces can be found below:

One of the three stolen art pieces is shown. Dancing Bear by Pauta Saila. Value $30,000 according to the Madrona Gallery. (Submitted)

One of the three stolen art pieces is shown. Holding a Stone by Oviloo Tunnillie. Value $12,000 according to the Madrona Gallery. (Submitted)

One of the three stolen art pieces is shown. Large Owl by Kupapik Ningeocheak. Value $1,500 according to the Madrona Gallery. (Submitted)

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