A south London council has appealed for information after thieves stole an irreplaceable piece of public art by the sculptor Barbara Hepworth from a site in Dulwich Park.
The sculpture disappeared after thieves broke into the locked park, drove up to the statue and removed it.
Called Two Forms (Divided Circle), it was erected in Dulwich Park in Southwark in 1970.
The break-in and theft was discovered on Tuesday morning by Southwark Council staff.
It comes as soaring prices for copper, lead and bronze have seen railway lines, phone lines and war memorials targeted by thieves across the country.
Southwark Council has issued an urgent appeal for anyone with information on the theft to come forward. Council chiefs are also offering a £1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the metal thieves.
Councillor Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, said: "The theft of this important piece of 20th century public art from Dulwich Park is devastating.
"The theft of public art and metal is becoming a sickening epidemic.
"I would ask the Met Police and their metal theft task force to investigate this theft as a matter of urgency, and would ask anyone with any information about the whereabouts of the sculpture to contact us or the police."
Only six editions of the 1969 sculpture were produced. There are also casts at the Barbara Hepworth Museum, St Ives; Clare College, Cambridge; the University of Bolton; Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and in a private collection in the USA.
A spokesperson for the Barbara Hepworth museum said the theft of this work was a great loss.
The spokesperson added: "Tate owns one of an edition of six of Two Forms (Divided Circle), which is on display at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, but this does not in any way diminish the loss to the public of this sculpture in London."
The theft comes a month after a statue of one of the country's leading social reformers of the twentieth century, Dr Alfred Salter, was stolen from Rotherhithe.
The Salter statue, valued at around £17,500, had been erected in celebration of Dr Salter's leading work helping the poor in London at the beginning of the 20th century.
27 February 2011