Two artworks have been reported as stolen from the ANU School of Art Gallery hours before the 2016 Graduate exhibition opening night.
Gallery coordinator Jay Kochel said he was shocked to discover smaller sized works by graduate artists Kirrily Humphries and Romany Fairall had been taken from the site sometime on Thursday afternoon.
"They were taken without the school's authority or the artist's authority so we are treating it as a theft," he said. "They are both works from the painting workshop."
The small-sized artworks were two of almost 1000 the gallery is bumping into the art school for the graduate show.
"There is over three months of work in one of the single works so it is quite distressing for us and the school at large," he said.
Along with the loss of these works, he said the two artists impacted by the crime lost a chance to have their talents exposed alongside their peers on opening night.
He said the public artworks were on display throughout the school and the gallery relied on a culture of trust and respect toward art.
"It is quite disappointing that someone has thought it was okay to take work off the wall but also to steal from students," he said.
"It so disheartening. The arts, in general, is running on the smell of an oily rag at the moment and students, in particular, are living tough."
Dr Kochel said while the university may pursue action by the police, the best justice would be the return of the work to both talented students.
The incident will give rise to a review of how such a large volume of student works would be safeguarded for next year's show.
"It is quite difficult, tonight we are expecting 2000 to the school," he said. "There are many areas that aren't traditionally designed to be exhibition spaces and we don't always have people on the ground to invigilate those works."