Shameless thieves steal coins from artwork on exhibition in Barking

Curator of the exhibition, Desiree Ntolo, beside her self-portrait. Picture: Rhiannon Long

Curator of the exhibition, Desiree Ntolo, beside her self-portrait. Picture: Rhiannon Long - Credit: Archant

Thieves have stolen coins decorating paintings at an exhibition in Barking Library.

Ms Ntolo considers the coins her signature trademark, but thieves stole them from 15 paintings. Pict

Ms Ntolo considers the coins her signature trademark, but thieves stole them from 15 paintings. Picture: Rhiannon Long - Credit: Archant

An artist has spoken of her devastation after shameless thieves stole coins used from her painting which were on exhibition in Barking Library.

The crooks swiped the one, two and 20 pence coins used by Desiree Ntolo which she considers her trademark.

The 60-year-old artist from Dagenham, has been building her collection of portraits since 2006 but within days of putting up the paintings, she noticed some of the coins were missing.

She said: “The day after I put up the pictures, I noticed that several paintings were hanging askew, and that two coins, a two and 20p, were missing from two pictures.

Ms Ntolo removed many of the paintings instead of replacing the coins. Picture: Rhiannon Long

Ms Ntolo removed many of the paintings instead of replacing the coins. Picture: Rhiannon Long - Credit: Archant


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“I replaced them and asked whether they had CCTV, and they did.”

The artist, who lives in the Becontree Estate, said she’d worried about homeless people discovering the coins and taking them.

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A visitors book and pen was also taken within the first week of opening, and she was forced to replace them with a ringbound book tied to the table.

“I feel very upset and disappointed,” she said.

“It took virtually a part of my soul to produce those pictures, and seeing them treated in such a manner is absolutely disheartening.”

Coins were taken from 15 paintings, which Ms Ntolo ended up taking down.

“It is no use me putting any new coins on the paintings while they are in Barking,” she said.

“This time I’ll frame all the pictures before exhibiting them again. I thought that if I offered them unframed, I could sell them for a lot cheaper than when framed.

“I intend to take them all down.”

Ms Ntolo’s paintings are all faces she’s seen in her head – except for one, a volcano she drew after seeing it on TV. They include portraits of her family, a self-portrait, and pictures of celebrities.

“These pieces mean everything to me,” she said.

A council spokesman said: “We regularly host free exhibitions in our libraries for everyone to visit and enjoy, so to hear an artist’s work has been damaged while on display is extremely disappointing.

“We take the allegation of vandalism and theft very seriously, and we are assisting the police as part of their investigation into the matter, however, as it is on-going we cannot comment any further.”

The exhibition closed on August 30.

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