Poor Detroit Might Lose Its Art Now

As if things weren't bad enough for Detroit. The city was officially declared bankrupt Tuesday, and now the Detroit Institute of Art may have to give up its art collection — estimated to be worth $2.5 billion to $20 billion — to overcome its bankruptcy. Yes, the poor DIA's Van Goghs, Diego Riveras, Picassos, Berninis, and any of the artistic masterpieces it houses may need to be sold or loaned for revenue.

Judge Steven Rhodes, who ruled on the bankruptcy, has been asked by city creditors to assemble a committee to see an "independent approval" on the art collection. While Detroit citizens may shed a tear or two if they lost their Rembrandts and their Rodins, Derek Donnelly, managing director of Financial Guarantee Insurance Co. (which filed the bankruptcy), told the Detroit Free Press:

We recognize that this is a very sensitive issue. Whatever process we undertake here, we would hope would create a win-win situation — that ultimately there will be a viable DIA that will survive this process and possibly even thrive. But at the same time there needs to be a construct that addresses the fact that the DIA, or art, is not an essential asset and especially not one that is essential to the delivery of services in the city.

While Detroit art might not be an "essential asset," selling it or loaning it off may not be the solution either. Judge Rhodes warned last week that using the art for revenue would not be a long-term solution for the bankruptcy — and the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday that the collection might actually be worth less than $2 billion. The sale of art pieces may also lead to the museum's liquidation, museum officials argue.

The DIA also released a statement:

Protected by a charitable and public trust, the collection has survived several municipal fiscal crises and financial downturns, including the Great Depression, free from threats to its existence.

The DIA therefore opposes the motion filed last week by certain City creditors to allow them to form a committee to oversee the valuation and sale or "monetization" of the museum art collection to satisfy municipal obligations. The DIA remains hopeful that the Emergency Manager will recognize the City's fiduciary duty to protect the museum art collection for future generations and that he will abide by the Michigan Attorney General's opinion...

Watch a video below from Democracy Now! to get a sense of how the bankruptcy ruling will impact the DIA and other Detroit citizens — specifically retirees, whose pensions might be cut.