January 29, 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - ,, No comments

Lipinski Stradivarius violin theft, Milwaukee: Police Chief Says "These are Wildly Valuable to a Tiny Slice of the Art World"

Lipinski Stradivarius/Frank Almond
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn held a press conference Tuesday to announce the theft of the Lipinski Stradivarius violin stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond when he was attacked by a taser after leaving a concert at Wisconsin Lutheran Church Monday night. The Milwaukee Police Department also uploaded a 14-minute video on YouTube (Milwaukee Police, "Rare Violin Taken in Robbery") and published information about the theft on its website.
After a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was assaulted and robbed of a rare, valuable Stradivarius violin built in 1715. At approximately 10:20pm on January 27, Frank Almond was walking to his car after performing at Wisconsin Lutheran College with other musicians. As he approached his parked car, a suspect used an electronic control device on Mr. Almond, causing Mr. Almond to drop the violin he was carrying. The suspect then took the violin and fled in a waiting car driven by a second suspect. 
The vehicle description is a late-80’s or early-90’s maroon or burgundy Chrysler or Dodge minivan.  It appears at this time that the violin was the primary target of this assault and robbery. It is important to note that this violin is valuable to a very small number of people in the world and is not something easily sold for what it is worth. We have a photograph of the specific Stradivarius violin and a car similar to the one used in the crime at the bottom of the screen.
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said “Last night, the artistic heritage of the City of Milwaukee was assaulted and robbed.”  Flynn was joined at the press conference by Mark Niehaus, President of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
The Milwaukee Police Department is working with the FBI’s Art Crimes Team out of FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Virginia. This team specializes in high-end art thefts, including instruments like the violin taken on Monday. This violin has been entered into the international art theft database. The FBI team works with Interpol to connect with international art dealers who are able to help locate stolen items throughout international markets. 
We are following up on every lead. We encourage anyone with any information about things they have seen or heard that may be related to this assault and robbery to contact the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-935-7360 or the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at 414-226-7838.
During the press conference, Chief Flynn asserted that the violin was the "primary target". Although this violin may be considered 'priceless' by some, practically, Flynn said, a Stradivarius would sell in the "high seven figures" (indicating tens of millions of dollars). Flynn elaborated:
It's important to note that this violin is very valuable but very valuable to a very small population. This is not something that can be easily sold for even a fraction of its monetary value.
Flynn showed a photo of the front and back of this wood violin made in 1715 and identified 'very specific striations that for a violin of this type are virtually the violin's fingerprint.'

The police chief, who was appointed in 2008, asked the media to support the investigation:

I urge the media to please respect the privacy of our crime victim. It is unusual for us to identify the victim in a crime like this. We are doing it because the information was publicly available, but he is still a crime victim. He is still our witness. Please do not put him in a position that he may inadvertently give information that he may give under stress that could compromise the integrity and ultimately the success of this investigation.

MSO's President, Mark Niehas confirmed that Almond is in "good condition" however he is recovering from being tasered and will not be on the stage this weekend. Niehas, in answering questions from journalists, said that the Stradivarius violins need to be played to "live on" otherwise it would "rot". 

Frank Almond posted information about the Lipinski violin here.

Thefts of Other Stradivarius Violins:

The Gibson Stradivarius violin owned by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman was stolen from his hotel room in 1916 and returned hours later. In 1936, while Huberman was playing another rare Stradivarius violin onstage at Carnegie Hall, the "journeyman violinist Julian Atman stole the Gibson Strad and played it -- dirty -- for 50 years. Joshua Bell purchased this violin in 2001 for $4 million to save it from being stored in a museum.
It was reported that the 1927 $3.5 million Stradivarius Violin owned by 91-year-old Erica Morini had been stolen from her Fifth Avenue apartment in October 1995 while the retired violinist was dying in the hospital; the Davidoff-Morini Stradivarius violin has not been recovered.
In December 2010, three 'opportunistic' thieves stole a Stradivarius violin from Min-Jin Kym at a Pret A Manger sandwich shop in Euston station in London; two and a half years later, the violin was recovered by police in July 2013 from a property in Midlands with very little damage.