SERENDIPITY, a happy accident or pleasant surprise.
What better way to describe the series of events that led to the Manning Regional Art Gallery being able to borrow Norman Lindsay's 'Woman and Satyr' for 12 months.
At Friday's official hand over of the painting that is being loaned by the NSW Police Force, gallery director Sue Mitchell and Manning Great Lakes Local Area Commander, Superintendent Peter Thurtell retold the great story.
The painting was seized by police officers in Sydney in 1980, following a raid of premises housing a range of stolen goods.
Together with drugs, jewellery and other items, the painting was placed into holding cells at a Sydney police station and officers were getting ready to spray the loot with chemicals, when one officer - Detective Sergeant Peter Chilton - had the foresight to remove the painting and take it to the Art Gallery of NSW.
"He suspected that it might have been quite valuable so he went to the gallery and they housed it in their basement," explained Sue.
Lindsay's work would remain there until 2010 when the art gallery found it in their storage facility and documents showed that it had come from the police force.
An operation was set up to try and track down the owners of the painting, but to no avail, and it will now remain under the care of the Art Gallery of NSW and the NSW Police Force and continue to be shared with the public.
But the biggest twist of all is that the man responsible for saving the prized piece of Australian art history is in fact Sue Mitchell's uncle.
"Yes my uncle Peter was the police officer who decided to take the painting to the gallery, and we're so glad he did," she smiled.
Woman and Satyr was unveiled to the Manning community last week ahead of the gallery's 11th biennial Manning Art Prize, fittingly themed 'Naked and Nude'.
Greater Taree City mayor Paul Hogan said he was honoured to accept the painting on behalf of the community and hoped that many people would visit the gallery and appreciate its latest addition.
The operation had been a lesson in art history for Supt Thurtell, who said he had researched Norman Lindsay in the lead up to the hand over and thought it was an "incredible story".
"We need to thank the foresight of the person who handed it the gallery because these days, if something like this were to happen, it would most likely be sold at auction where it would disappear into a private collection and never get to be enjoyed by the public, which would be a great shame," Peter said.
"So I'm very proud that we, as an organisation, have been able to contribute something like this - albeit accidentally," he laughed.
The 2013 Manning Art Prize "Naked and Nude" will be officially opened at Manning Regional Art Gallery on Saturday at 6.30pm. Cost is $20 and includes a light supper.
Special guests include Greater Taree City mayor Paul Hogan, principal sponsor Dr Philip Walkom, judge John McDonald and president of the Friends of the Gallery, Barry Schlenker.
The exhibition run until November 10.