New York Instrument Dealer Sued Over Lost $400,000 Violin

Thursday, April 04, 2013 - 05:42 PM

A violinist is accusing a Manhattan violin dealer of losing her 1837 violin while it was on consignment – by giving it out for trial to someone who never returned – according to a lawsuit filed on March 26.

Kyung-Ah Yang, a South Korean violinist who studied at the Manhattan School of Music, left her J.F. Pressenda violin in 1998 with René Morel Rare Violins, where Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt worked at the time.

According to Yang's suit, Gradoux-Matt was supposed to sell the 176-year-old violin for $285,000, but the instrument did not find a buyer.

In 2011, the suit continues, Yang wanted to retrieve her violin from Gradoux-Matt, who had by then parted ways with Morel and formed his own shop, Gradoux-Matt Rare Violins. The suit alleges that Yang made several e-mail requests but was repeatedly brushed off. The rare violin was being shown "on the West Coast," she was told, and the dealer would "definitely inform" Yang "if anything positive happens."

Finally, in January 2013, with the violin now valued at around $400,000, Gradoux-Matt informed Yang that "he had let an individual in New York borrow [her] violin for a trial, and the individual never returned."

Attempts on Thursday to reach Gradoux-Matt were unsuccessful; the shop's office phone was not answered and its website was offline.

According to the suit, Yang is seeking $400,000 in compensation damages, along with punitive damages of the same amount. The suit was first reported in the New York Post.

Gradoux-Matt's biography states that he is a violin maker in residence at the Aspen Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival and the Heifetz International Music Institute. He also serves on the board of the Long Island Conservatory of Music.

Update 4/5/13: A spokesman for the Aspen Music Festival, which Gradoux-Matt identifies as a client, writes that the festival has never had an affiliation with him.

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Comments [9]

Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt from New York

The Violin that was consigned to us was fully insured. The owner was compensated by the insurance company for her loss. We, at the shop, all fell terrible for the loss of the violin. In over 30 years of being in business, it is the first time that it did happen.

Mar. 20 2014 05:41 PM

I am not blaming the victim just noting that the owner of a violin worth some $400,000 is not dealing with reality if she does not have the violin insured for its true vale. While insurance alone may not bring the violin back to the owners possession, at least she would have been compensated for its value. The whole story sounds quite strange. Someone owns a violin worth $400,000 and it is NOT insured.
My Cello was last appraised at $18,000 and I adjust my insurance on it every two or three years.
The young lady who owned the violin may be a world class musician but needs a quick course in business. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Oct. 23 2013 11:29 AM
bmansfie from Las Vegas, Nevada

This gentlemen is also the proprietor of Gostrings.com. A quick web search will tell you all you need to know. Numerous complaints of non-existent customer service as well as non receipt of products ordered. I have been waiting six months for a custom ordered violin case. The website status says "on-hold", and when I attempt to inquire as to the status, my emails are not replied to, and when I call the phone number on the website, the voice mailbox is always full (for months now!).

Jul. 15 2013 06:55 PM
Gene Wie from Orange County

The consignment of an instrument for sale by a shop/dealer is standard practice in the stringed instrument world, whether a violin is $4000 or $400,000.

Apr. 30 2013 06:22 PM
kriss from Piscataway, NJ

Some of these comments sound like "blame the victim" to me. The violin was not abandoned, but entrusted to a dealer to find a buyer.

I find this attitude ungracious and would expect better from the WQXR community.

Apr. 10 2013 04:28 PM
ardath_bey

get real John, no one said prospective buyers shouldn't play the instrument extensively once they're proven to be legitimate and not thieves. Abandoning with a dealer is something else. She made a huge mistake and is paying the price for it.

Apr. 05 2013 05:08 PM
John

"A picture of the instrument online and/or a video of her playing it on YouTube would be much smarter ways to advertise it instead of just abandoning it with a dealer."

Nonsense. No serious musician is going to even consider purchasing an instrument (let alone spending almost half a million dollars on one) without having the opportunity to play it extensively first. Every fine violin has a unique sound and "feel" to its playing, and any serious musician will need ample opportunity to play the instrument, listen to its sound, often get second opinions from colleagues and teachers, and so on. Having musicians borrow instruments that they are considering is standard practice.

Furthermore, having instruments on consignment to dealers is a practice that benefits everyone: buyers have the opportunity to compare multiple instruments at a single location (thus making it easier to decide which ones to borrow for more extensive trials), sellers have access to greater numbers of potential buyers, and dealers have the opportunity to increase their sales without increasing their own inventory. Remember, the profit margin on instrument sales is very small, even if the prices themselves are very high.

Apr. 05 2013 02:21 PM
ardath_bey

That's what happens when people see relics of the past as nothing but an opportunity to make money. If Kyung-Ah Yang really treasured the instrument, she should've kept it with herself even if she was planning to sell it and needed the support of René Morel Rare Violins to do it.

A picture of the instrument online and/or a video of her playing it on YouTube would be much smarter ways to advertise it instead of just abandoning it with a dealer.

As for René Morel Rare Violins, don't they ever heard of insurance for theft? Who's this individual Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt lent the instrument to? Sounds like a dog-ate-my-homework excuse to me.

Apr. 05 2013 01:05 PM

What's that line from Music Man? "When you're fiddlin'in the parlor, there's burglars in the bedroom."

Apr. 05 2013 05:34 AM

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