Friday 30 May 2014

Detroit drama deconstructed

It's been a while since we checked in with the state of affairs in Detroit. You may remember, this time last year, we reported here and here about the city filing for bancruptcy and how there were suggestions of the Detroit Institute of Arts selling works from its collection to help pay the city's massive debt.

Despite a lot of criticism and opposition, the city's emergency financial manager, Kevyn Orr, went ahead and ordered Christie’s to appraise part of the collection, namely only artworks purchased by the city. Christie's estimated that, if sold, the works would raise between $454 million and $867 million. 

But now it is not just the city which is interested in the value of the art. Creditors of the city of Detroit have also turned their attention to the DIA collection as a source of cash. Indeed, they went so far as to file motions to allow them to remove pieces from the walls of the DIA in order to inspect and appraise them, and to access historic documents about the art, on the basis that Christie’s evaluation did not give an accurate estimate of the value of the collection

Earlier this month, the DIA were granted a bit breathing space by the Detroit court which denied these motions - reportedly telling the creditors that they could visit the museum and enjoy the art on the walls like everyone else. Although the creditors were given permission to work with DIA officials to inspect artwork which is in storage at the museum. Unfortunately, it seems that the valuation has nevertheless moved to the next level - with officials handling the bankruptcy proceedings advising the court this week that a comprehensive appraisal of the value of the collection is now underway.

Separately, the Detroit Free Press reports that: "the [DIA] moved to protect itself in court, arguing in its own filing that its artwork is legally protected from the auction block and threatened a court battle if the city pursues a sale. It said it will support the city's plan to allow the transfer of ownership of the Detroit Institute of Arts to an independent non-profit. But the museum's threat to challenge any sale in court sets up the museum as a potential obstacle for the city if the current restructuring proposal collapses."

The next major stage of this saga is the trial to determine whether the restructuring plan submitted by the city should be implemented. It is scheduled to start on 24 July.

Source: The Detroit Free Press, 15 May 2014, 27 May 2014,

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