The latest report on the value of DIA’s art seems to be causing a great deal of confusion. Although the report was commissioned by the City and the museum, the headlines focus on the significantly higher valuation (as much as $4.6m) for the entire collection but only mention the caveats in the body of the stories.
Why DIA and the city felt compelled to spend $112,500 remains something of a mystery. The judge in the bankruptcy case has extraordinary powers to decide how assets of the city should be treated. He’s made it clear that one-time sales are of limited value toward solving the city’s problems. The Grand Bargain engineered by another Federal judge has the broad support of a wide swath of interested parties. All that remains is for the pensioners to vote, today, for accepting their part of the broader bankruptcy deal.
Since the new report was released this week, one might view it as aimed toward answering questions the pensioners might have about shared sacrifices or why the city doesn’t just sell some pictures to keep their pensions where they are. If that’s the case, the report would seem to be sending the wrong message even as it tries to validate the deal in place.
But the pensioners are not the audience for the report. It would appear to be a pre-emptive measure toward the creditors who complained that Christie’s appraisal was only examined a portion of the collection and undervalued those that it did. Let’s let the Wall Street Journal pick up the tale:
The 72-page report prepared by Michael Plummer, a principal at Artvest, an art-market advisory firm, argues that any effort to liquidate Detroit’s collection likely would put downward pressure on the art’s sales price and also draw potential challenges by museum donors, among other issues. Some pieces such as the museum’s rare Diego Rivera murals “are frescos applied directly to the walls,” meaning they couldn’t be removed without “cutting them off the wall and inflicting serious damage, and incurring significant cost,” wrote Mr. Plummer, who may testify as an expert in bankruptcy court for the city.
Mr. Plummer also critiqued the viability of the earlier effort by Christie’s to explore possible ways to monetize the collection. Separately, he cast doubt on an effort by some bond insurers to solicit interest in the artwork by private potential buyers.
The city supports a proposal by private donors to provide the equivalent of more than $815 million to shore up the city’s public employee pensions while making sure the institute of art remains whole. But the issue is far from settled. City pension holders must vote in favor of the plan for the funding to come through from foundations and others, including nearly $200 million approved by the state legislature. Ballots are due by Friday.