By Chimaimba Banda

A valuable work of art has been stolen from the Johannesburg Art Gallery and vandalised, raising concern about the safety of cultural treasures there.

Authorities at the gallery said several measures had been taken to ensure that such incidents didn't occur again.

The theft and vandalism occurred in August, and has left Kendell Geers, the artist who made the sculpture, fuming.

The sculpture, titled Suitcase, was later discovered near the gallery, but it had been damaged.

"The incident is an ominous sign of what we can expect from the Johannesburg Art Gallery in the future," said Geers.

Gallery director Rochelle Keene blamed the incident on "human error", saying that additional security staff had since been employed.

She said the work would be professionally restored at a cost of about R200.

An El Greco painting was also stolen from the gallery in June.