On 18 July, the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy. Emergency financial manager of the city Kevyn Orr has considered the sale of valuable assets in the city, among them, the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Auction house Christie’s have been hired to appraise the collection. Christie’s will only appraise works bought directly by the city that are unencumbered by donated funds or other covenants that cloud clear legal title, stated a spokesman for Orr. The museum released the statement below.
Detroit Institute of Arts Statement re: Valuation of Art, 5 August 2013
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has learned that Christie’s, at the request of the Emergency Manager, plans to proceed with a valuation of the DIA collection, and we will be cooperating completely in that process. However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM’s focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit’s most important cultural institution.
In addition, recent moves in Oakland and Macomb counties to invalidate the tri-county millage if art is sold virtually ensure that any forced sale of art would precipitate the rapid demise of the DIA. Removing $23 million in annual operating funds – nearly 75% of the museum’s operating budget – and violating the trust of donors and supporters would cripple the museum, putting an additional financial burden on our already struggling city. The DIA has long been doing business without City of Detroit operating support; any move that compromises its financial stability will endanger the museum and further challenge the City’s future.
MoveOn has started a petition in support of making the Detroit Institute of Arts a National Monument, which would make it impossible to sell the collection.
Another petiton has been started by Jeffrey Hamburger has been started here