Light-fingered: thief steals three sculptures of Ai Weiwei's hand

Light-fingered: Thief steals three sculptures depicting Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s hand flipping the bird from German gallery

  • Dissident artist’s work worth £24,000 snatched from shelves in broad daylight
  • Alarm at swanky Lumas Galerie in Hamburg failed to go off, staff tell MailOnline
  • Glass hands reference series of middle-finger protest photos, banned in China
  • Mr Ai first swore at Tiananmen Square, where students were killed in 1989
  • His most valuable work sold for more than £18million in London seven years ago 

A trio of glass hands by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei were pinched from a city centre gallery in broad daylight this week.

Police in Hamburg, Germany appealed for information yesterday after the artworks were snatched from Lumas Galerie on shopping street Neuer Well.

Each of the colourful hands were on sale for €9,500 (£8,000) on the Lumas website, making the theft worth just under €30,000 (£24,000). 

A centrepiece of the gallery, the glass hands were kept in full public view. Staff member told MailOnline the alarm protecting them failed to go off.

Red, green and yellow Study in Perspective: Glass hands worth nearly €10,000 each were snatched from Lumas Galerie on a city centre shopping street in Hamburg, Germany

Staff at the gallery told MailOnline the glass hands were in public view and fitted with an alarm

They were removed from sale this afternoon. 

According to Hamburg Police, the light-fingered thief acted alone. The heist took place between midday and 6pm on Monday.

The acclaimed artworks reference Mr Ai’s photo series ‘Study of Perspective’ (1995-2017), in which the rebel artist took pictures of his middle finger pointed at landmarks.

Most controversial was the first image, a picture of Tiananmen Square on a grey day. 

Exiled Weiwei, 64, was referencing the 1989 student protests in which unarmed protestors were killed.

Ai Weiwei (left), pictured in a selfie with a fan, was imprisoned in China for 81 days in 2011

The swanky art gallery and retailer in Germany’s second city took the hands off its website

The popular image is banned from printing and sharing on social media in China.

Within months of helping design the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Mr Ai was targeted by a series of politically motivated trials. 

Weiwei spent 81 days in prison in 2011 on tax evasion charges. He was kept in a windowless cell less than 4m by 4m (170 sq ft) in size.

The renowned artist was accompanied by two guards at all times and had to ask permission to drink water. 

After regaining his passport from the authorities in 2015, Weiwei resettled in Germany before moving to Cambridge.

The same year, his set of a dozen sculpted bronze animal heads sold for more than £18million at Phillips Auction House in Mayfair. 

Due to strict privacy laws, German police rarely provide CCTV or crime scene photos before cases are closed.

Lumas Galerie Hamburg decided not to comment.

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