Help West Phily Artist Raphael Tiberino Reunite With His Stolen Painting
“I’ve been working on it for three years and it didn’t go away until Sunday,” says Raphael Tiberino, whose family has been making art in Philly since the 1960s.
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Raphael Tiberino expected to spend almost all of his time this week creating art at his West Philadelphia home, which is on the same site his family has been creating art on since the 1960s. Instead, he walked through the Powelton Village neighborhood, talking to neighbors, looking for surveillance cameras and taping “lost kitten” signs on the poles in the desperate hope of tracking down a painting of him that was outside of him on Sunday was stolen from home.
“I’ve been working on it for three years and it didn’t go away until Sunday,” says Tiberino, a 51-year-old graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Tiberino works in various locations around his home, and one of them is an outdoor porch. There he has tended to the painting in question since the inspiration met him a few years ago. The painting shows a naked woman surrounded by flowers, diabolical figures and animals.
He saw the painting on his porch on Saturday. But when he went outside on Sunday morning – not a painting.
Tiberino called his local police district and didn’t want to disturb the 911 operators who are dealing with emergencies these days. But he was told there was nothing the police could do if he didn’t call 911, so he did. Then he spoke to a police officer on the phone. The policeman gave him a police report number but, according to Tiberino, said there wasn’t much the department could do.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute – this is not a lost page from a coloring book,'” Tiberino recalls. “I told him it was worth at least $ 5,000 – and of course I think it’s worth a lot more – and that it will end up in an auction or hang in someone’s home. He said it was different and the detectives would be in touch. “
That was sunday. Today is Thursday and Tiberino still hasn’t heard from anyone despite realizing that a stolen act is not a top priority. “I know how bad the city is,” says Tiberino. “I’m not blaming the police at all. Everyone’s problem is important to them at this time, and my problem is important to me right now. I’ve put a lot of work into this for a long time. “
The porch work area is not visible from the street so someone should have walked out on the porch to see the painting. A couple of neighbors told Tiberino they stole packages from their steps over the weekend, and Tiberino suspects a potential package thief turned into an art thief and likely failed to realize that the crime was a crime based on the supposed value of Tiberino’s art.
“On the other hand, given the neighborhood full of students, it could have just been a drunk college kid on a lark,” admits Tiberino.
In any case, he wants his art back – undamaged – and says he would even be willing to offer a reward.
Art was and is a family affair for Tiberino.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses works by his late mother, Ellen Powell Tiberino. Her paintings, often focused on the experiences of black women, can be seen in the West Philly Museum named after her, which was awarded the Best of Philly and is currently closed on COVID. Raphael’s father, who died in 2016, was a well-known artist himself and a famous man of the city. Raphael’s siblings are also active artists.
The stolen painting is oil on canvas and measures approximately three by five feet. When you see the subject, you will likely recognize it right away.
Philadelphia police confirm the case is open and under investigation. A police spokesman said anyone with information could call the Southwest Detectives Division at 215-686-3183.
But Tiberino says he’d love to deal with it privately and is more than willing to take a no-questions-asked approach. You can find him on Instagram.
“A lot of time and energy was invested,” says Tiberino. “It means a lot to me personally.”