Thousands of stolen art prints returned to artist Stik

Stik’s Holding Hands art piece, Pic: Todd-White Art Photography, PA Media

Thousands of stolen prints by Hackney street artist Stik – which went missing when being sent to local residents – have now been recovered.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that a total of 5,000 prints, part of an original distribution of 100,000 have now been recovered. “We understand some have been sent by post, and others were collected from various locations. Items have been returned mainly in bulk, by unwitting buyers.” said police.

Stik had wanted to send 100,000 prints featuring his Holding Hands artwork to every Hackney household to commemorate his first public sculpture in Hoxton Square and as a gesture of kindness to the community following the pandemic and the lockdown.

The prints were to be distributed via the council-issued publication Hackney Today and were delivered to the distributor in September but a large number went missing during the distribution process.

Police said a number of boxes containing thousands of copies of the print had been taken without permission and a number later appeared on sale online. They arrested a 20-year-old man on October 14 on suspicion of theft but was subsequently released with no further action. A second male was interviewed under caution. Detectives then launched an appeal for the return of the prints.

Around 4,000 prints have since been returned to the artist. An additional 1,000 prints were returned before the appeal was made.

Metropolitan Police Detective Constable James Readman said in a statement issued this week: “It is really encouraging that the public have listened to our appeal and done the right thing by returning a large proportion of the prints. 

”Hopefully, they were struck by the fact that STIK was doing something really nice for his fellow Hackney residents – funded out of his own pocket – because he wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces, during what has been an incredibly difficult year for most. Some individuals saw an opportunity to make money and took it.”

It is unclear who is responsible for the attempted sale of the prints, but after the appeal, some of them were delivered back to Stik directly, and some have been bought by fans who then returned them to the artist.

The Mayor of Hackney, Phillip Glanville said: “We would like to thank Stik and the Police, and everyone who listened to their appeals and returned the posters that they had bought or found. We can now help ensure that they go to the residents who missed out on them.

The prints are being re-distributed to estates across the borough like the artist originally planned.

A Symbol of Solidarity

Stik’s artwork represents two non-gender stick figures holding hands and looking in different directions as a symbol of universal love and solidarity. The artwork was first designed in 2016 for the London Pride Parade to be the official Hackney banner.

Official Hackney banner for London Pride Parade in 2016. Pic: Stik

As a long-time Hackney resident himself, artist Stik wanted to support local people during the pandemic. Offering every household a 50×50 print was a way of brightening the moods of people within the community and to show solidarity during the pandemic. He funded the whole project out of his own pocket.

“He wanted to bring a smile to people’s faces, during what has been an incredibly difficult year for most.” said Readman

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