The New York Times’s Randy Kennedy finally provides an inkling of the real story beneath the struggle over the Detroit Institute of Arts’s collection. To recap, the city bought much of the art contained within the museum. The region is eager to keep a world class museum. The surrounding counties have responded with alacrity by footing the museum’s operating costs with local taxes.
The only remaining issue has been how to help the City of Detroit realize the gain in value from the art it purchased without actually selling the art. This, not a philistine distaste for art as so many critics have leapt to assume, has been the real issue. Although it is never ideal for a museum’s collection to be treated as financial asset, the situation was created long ago.
Now the Detroit Institute of Arts is putting the issue squarely on the table by appealing to the state of Michigan directly to save the museum’s art. If the proposal moves further, it will be a political victory for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr who has been playing some very high level chess:
The new proposal would ask the state to begin providing substantial funding to the museum that would allow the museum to provide money to the city that might otherwise be found only by selling art. At a business luncheon on Thursday in Detroit, Mr. Orr said that the museum might consider long-term leases of art works as another way of avoiding any sale. “I’m deferring to them to save themselves,” he told business leaders, referring to the institute.
The museum’s proposal for state help was described as a political long shot by many leaders interviewed by the Detroit Free Press, who mentioned the competing demands for state money and the sensitivities over a city institution changing hands. “At first blush it sounds like it satisfies Kevyn Orr’s bottom line,” said Bert Johnson, a Democratic state senator, “but the continued divestiture of Detroit’s assets itself is implausible for me.”
Detroit Institute of Arts Mulls Transfer to State (Artsbeat/NYTimes)