Detroit’s art collection safe —— for now

by Hillary Casavant

DITTo creditors, it may seem a logical solution: sell the Detroit Institute of Arts’ city-owned collection — which may be worth billions of dollars — and save the city from its $18 billion debt. But several national organizations, including the Ford Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, have united to keep Detroit’s art off the auction block.

Earlier this month, nine foundations and nonprofits pledged $330 million toward Detroit’s pension debts. In exchange, the entire D.I.A. collection would be transferred to an independent entity separate from the city’s control.

The step could preserve the museum’s impressive collection, which includes the three most valuable pieces bought directly with city funds: Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Wedding Dance” (worth between $100 million and $200 million), Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait with a Felt Hat” ($80 million to $150 million) and Rembrandt’s “The Visitation” ($50 million to $90 million).

Christie’s auction house evaluated a selection of works between $454 million and $867 million in December, though creditors believe that the D.I.T.’s entire collection of 66,000 art pieces may be worth billions. On Wednesday, Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes denied their requests for an independent re-evaluation of the collection.

Creditors will no doubt continue to fight for the sale, regardless of how much funds the foundations raise. But for now, D.I.T.’s art will remain off the market, much to the relief of the art community in Detroit and abroad.

In a recent interview with Time, Jennifer Goulet, the president of ArtServe Michigan, a group that promotes the arts across the state, said that Detroit’s art collection, one of the city’s “most valuable assets,” must be maintained.

“The D.I.A. is clearly one of those unique assets that needs to be integral to the city’s rebirth,” she said.

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