Randy Kennedy’s New York Times follow up story on the Detroit bankruptcy filing (which has since been put in doubt by a Federal judge) reveals a few details about the potential for the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection to be treated as an asset. (For a list of the 10 most valuable works see this Detroit Free Press article.) Kennedy reports that Christie’s has already been in touch with DIA. He also counterposes the two points of view on the DIA and its collection.
Remember that Detroit’s problems are a product of the city’s shrinking population where tax revenues can no longer pay for all of the city’s requirements and commitments. When discussing the DIA’s art as a public trust, it is relevant to be aware of the shrinking public.
“It’s hard to go to a pensioner on a fixed income and say ‘We’re going to cut 20 percent of your income or 30 percent or whatever the number is, but art is eternal,’ ” [Emergency manager’s spokesman Bill] Nowling said. “For people, that’s a hard distinction. I think it’s a distinction that some of the patrons of the D.I.A. have a hard time understanding. We’re talking about real people here with real decisions that have real impact on their lives.”
He added, of the art works: “It doesn’t mean we’re proposing to sell them. But we need to know how much they’re worth and we need to know what value are they bringing back to the city.” […]
Samuel Sachs II, who was the director of the museum from 1985 to 1997, said on Friday, “If they do attack this, it will be the end of one of the most venerable cultural institutions in the country, not just in Detroit.”
He added: “If you could sell off Detroit’s hospitals and its universities, would you do that, too? If you do things like this, you’re basically spelling the end of the city as an ongoing entity.”