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Two Steps Forward, A Half-One Back, In Detroit

Where the Detroit Institute of Arts was ever going to get the $100 million it has to raise to keep up its end of the deal for freedom with Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr has been a mystery. Now it may be getting a solution. Detroit newspapers are reporting that the Big Three automakers may be about to pledge $50 million to the cause, which would make the DIA independent of the city, prevent its art from being sold, and help reduce cuts to the city’s pensioners.

DIAAccording to the Free Press,

The DIA approached the auto companies about six weeks ago to ask them to contribute more than $50 million as a group, one person familiar with the talks said. The total donation for the three may end up closer to half that amount, said the source. But once the automakers are on board, the museum might make similar requests to automotive suppliers. The DIA also asked for help from several non-auto foundations, including the Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation. Today it said it is mulling the request.

A deal may be as close as a week away.

There are many more details in the article, and an excellent statement from General Motors and the GM Foundation: “The DIA must be central to any plans for a revitalized Detroit. Both GM and the GM Foundation are giving very careful consideration to how we can help preserve this treasure at such a critical time.”

The DIA has to raise another $200 million over the next nine years for its endowment, replacing the $23 million in receives each year in the temporary millage enacted in the three Detroit area counties. And it still must raise about $10 million a year for its operating budget. Let’s hope the Big Three come up with the money.

As for the step backward, the DIA is having to spend time and effort fending off city debt insurers Syncora and FGIC, which requested a ton of information from the DIA so its collection could be valued independentlyDIA attorneys have now filed an official objection to their proposal, a “motion allowing their representatives to physically remove as many as 12,000 works from the walls and archives, snapping digital pictures of the front and back of each piece.” The Free Press continues:

The city-owned DIA tonight said the proposal “invites disaster” and “poses serious risks to the collection” because of the delicate condition of the works. 

The museum also protested the creditors’ request for access to what the DIA described as a trove of “over a million pages of hard-copy documents, many of which are originals that can be more than a half century old.”

The museum said it had already provided nearly 90,000 pages of records on its collection, as well as physical access to some documents.

“These files cannot be inspected and hastily copied without risking damage or destruction,” the museum said in the filing. “Many that are not used in day-to-day Museum operations are stored in the Museum archives and are not well organized or easily accessible.”

The issue is in court on Thursday. I hope the judge rules that this is a nuisance issue, with no basis for going forward.


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