Police are investigating the theft of thousands of prints by the Hackney-based artist Stik, which were intended to be distributed to every household in the borough.
The street artist, who is known for painting large stick figures, had been working with Hackney Council to arrange the printing and local distribution of 100,000 copies of a 50cm x 50cm poster of one of his 2016 works called Holding Hands.
The prints were created to celebrate the installation of the Holding Hands sculpture in Hoxton Square and were to be distributed to local residents via the monthly issue of the council-issued Hackney Today newspaper.
After a large number of residents said they did not receive a copy, it was discovered that batches of the print were being sold online.
Hackney Council reported the issue to police.
Although about 1,000 prints have been returned, a large amount are still unaccounted for.
Detective Constable James Readman, of the Metropolitan Police’s central east command unit, called for the artworks to be returned.
He said: “The artist began this project as a gift to the people of Hackney and paid a substantial amount of money out of his own pocket to meet the cost of printing.
“While some residents happily received theirs, many thousands of others were left very disappointed. We are working with the artist and Hackney Council to identify what has happened.
“It appears at this stage that somewhere along the supply and distribution chain, boxes containing thousands of copies of the print have been taken without permission and sold on.
“I urge anyone who has information as to the whereabouts of large quantities of the missing prints to make contact with us so that we can right this wrong and help ensure they end up with the people that were intended to receive them.”
Stik added the artworks were intended “as a gift to the people of Hackney”, and said any prints which are returned will be redistributed to those who missed out.
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 citing reference number CRIS 4626404/20 or can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 11.