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Salort-Pons’ Response: Detroit Institute’s Director Tussles with Anonymous Detractors

Showing a courage and candor that’s been in short supply among museum officials who are navigating the choppy waters of racial tensions, political unrest and economic difficulty, Salvador Salort-Pons, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, has publicly engaged with the issues raised in a petition calling for his removal. Salvador Salort-Pons Photo: Detroit Institute of Arts In their petition, DIA Staff Action—a self-described group of unnamed current and former DIA staffers—decried “years of a hostile work environment.” … [Read more...]

Rethinking Displays: My Q&A with Salort-Pons, Detroit Institute’s New Director—Part II

Part I is here. We interrupt our two-part interview with Salvador Salort-Pons, the Detroit Institute of Arts' new director (effective Oct. 15) to bring a news bulletin regarding his predecessor, Graham Beal: Michigan State University announced last week that Beal will remain in-state for this academic year, as MSU's visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, "the most prestigious faculty appointment at the university." In addition to teaching, Graham's duties will include serving as senior adviser to the provost, assisting in the search … [Read more...]

$600-Million Endowment?!? My Q&A with Salort-Pons, Detroit Institute’s New Director—Part I

Part II is here. In an appointment reminiscent of the Art Institute of Chicago's elevation to its directorship of Douglas Druick and the Metropolitan Museum's appointment of Tom Campbell to its top spot, the Detroit Institute of Arts today named an inside candidate with solid art credentials, Salvador Salort-Pons, 45, to become its 11th director, effective Oct. 15. He succeeds Graham Beal---a tough act to follow---who retired on June 30. Whereas Druick, with a distinguished 26-year career in Chicago before assuming the top post, was … [Read more...]

News Flash: Graham W.J. Beal, Detroit Institute of Arts’ Director, To Retire (“Quite a Ride”)

It was an open secret that the most heroic, steadfast and principled art museum director I've ever met, the Detroit Institute of Arts' Graham W.J. Beal, was likely to retire when his contract expired June 30. He will have stayed the often difficult but rewarding course for almost 16 years. Clearly Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press knew Beal was soon to leave: Like obituary writers who have detailed biographies ready to go at the moment someone expires, Mark had a full appraisal of Beal's career and a recap of his monumental … [Read more...]

From Detroit to Delaware: Why We Need Government Deaccession Regulations

In the Detroit Institute of Arts' recent ordeal, there's a sweeping, important takeaway for the entire museum field that went unmentioned in my Wall Street Journal article last week on the broader significance of that museum's expensive, protracted legal battle to protect the integrity of its collection. The legal proceedings (which, fortunately, went the DIA's way) reinforced my previous contention that legislation or government regulations to prevent monetization of collections to pay operating and capital costs or to defray debts are … [Read more...]

What Happened in Detroit Stays in Detroit? My Wall Street Journal Takeaway on Detroit Institute’s Ordeal

For the long beleaguered Detroit Institute of Arts, there's been a happy ending, fittingly celebrated at the museum's gala, which by happenstance occurred the day after Judge Steven Rhodes' favorable ruling. But unless they take preemptive action, other museums with city-owned collections might not be so lucky, as I discuss in After Detroit's Close Call, my article on the "Leisure & Arts" page of tomorrow's (Thursday's) Wall Street Journal (online now). What happened in Detroit---a once thriving city, fallen on hard times---could … [Read more...]

“Invaluable Beacon”: What Judge Rhodes Said About Detroit Institute of Arts

The excerpts from Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes' opinion, issued yesterday, regarding the rescue of the Detroit Institute of Arts' (DIA's) collection via the Grand Bargain are worth reading in full, especially for these sentences that explicitly back the professional standards promulgated by art museums regarding deaccessions and that underscore the importance of the museum and its art to the city's recovery: Nationally accepted standards for museums prohibit the de-acquisition of art to pay debt.... To sell the DIA art would only deepen … [Read more...]

Grand News for Grand Bargain: Judge Rhodes Approves Detroit Bankruptcy Plan UPDATED

At this writing, Judge Rhodes is still presenting the details of his decision to approve Detroit's bankruptcy plan. But the bottom line for the Detroit Institute of Arts is this, as described in an initial Detroit Free Press report, already online: The DIA, which waged a fierce fight against any potential sale, will not have to sell a single piece of art to pay off the city's debts or reinvest in services. A press conference by the Governor, Emergency Manager and Mediator is expected after the ruling. Stay tuned to the Free Press's live blog … [Read more...]

Detroit Detritus: Institute of Arts Responds to Cheap Shots Against Graham Beal’s Compensation

As reported this week by the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, politicians are again seeking to score cheap points by positioning themselves as defenders taxpayers' interests in questioning the entirely reasonable compensation of Graham Beal, the Detroit Institute of Arts' esteemed long-time director. While this is not the first time this has happened (see here and here), it could be the last. Beal had told me last April that he felt an obligation to stick with the Detroit Institute through the resolution of serious threats to his … [Read more...]

Grand Bargain vs. Tawdry Fire Sale: Detroit Institute of Arts’ Progress on the Former, Caveats on Latter

There was a lot of self-congratulation at this morning's buoyant press conference, where the Detroit Institute of Arts and Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the museum has now raised almost 80% of the $100 million it has committed towards the $816-million Grand Bargain that is intended to prevent monetization of the museum's art to help pay Detroit's creditors. Nine new contributors, led by Roger S. Penske and Penske Corp. (with a $10-million pledge) have promised $26.8 million in this latest burst of philanthropy. Reporting in the Detroit … [Read more...]

Detroit Exploits: Today’s Grand Bargain Announcement (plus Detroit Institute’s more aggressive legal stance)

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was not providing any advance details regarding its "major Grand Bargain announcement," planned for later this morning. After getting a heads-up from the museum on Friday about the planned announcement, I assumed it might have something to do with fundraising successes. At least some (if not all) of the news was leaked early to Detroit reporters by other sources: Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press reported that "leaders of the Detroit Institute of Arts will join Gov. Rick announce a … [Read more...]

Emergency Manager Favors Detroit Institute’s “Grand Bargain” (plus: more controversies)

I'm juggling three stories of major interest, but can't do justice to all of them at once: ---The Corcoran Gallery's likely dismemberment, for which that Washington, DC, institution on Saturday issued a detailed list of FAQs, answering some important questions but raising others. ---The raucous surprise protest demonstration Saturday evening inside the Guggenheim Museum, New York, lambasting alleged human rights violations involving Abu Dhabi construction workers, to which the Guggenheim issued a cryptic but somewhat encouraging response. … [Read more...]

Detroit Detritus: Critics of Detroit Institute’s “Grand Bargain” Dig for Dirt (and unearth some)

In an off-base article that purports to report on the objections of "critics" regarding the Detroit Institute of Arts' handling of executive compensation, Robert Snell of the Detroit News quotes only one such critic---Republican state Rep. Kurt Heise. The state legislator fumes that “at a time when we are asking for so much from people in Detroit---pensioners, firefighters and police officers---it is outrageous that these individuals are being so grossly compensated.” It's outrageous to call director Graham Beal's compensation … [Read more...]

Pieces of Puzzle to Secure Detroit Institute’s Independence Fall Into Place

Following close upon the news that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, has pledged $40 million towards the Grand Bargain, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has now agreed itself to raise $100 million as part of the campaign to purchase its independence from the City of Detroit and protect its collection from sales to pay the municipality's creditors. Here's the DIA's full announcement: Detroit Institute of Arts to raise $100 Million toward Detroit’s Revitalization January 29, 2014 (Detroit)—As an anchor and investor in Detroit’s … [Read more...]

Detroit Institute’s Good-News Day: Governor, Key Legislators Endorse Art-Rescue Funds (with video)

More good news today for the Detroit Institute of Arts. Here's the museum's reaction to this afternoon's expected announcement by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (joined by the state's House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader---all Republicans) of a plan to provide up to $350 million over 20 years to protect the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts from monetization and to support the city's pensioners: Governor Snyder’s announcement is continued good news for the City of Detroit, its pensioners and the DIA. Support from the Governor and … [Read more...]

Rhodes Rules: Good News for Detroit Institute of Arts

Looks like a step in the right direction for defenders of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. This just in from Nathan Bomey's live blog of Bankruptcy Court hearings for the Detroit Free Press: BREAKING: Judge [Steven] Rhodes denies creditor attempt to establish independent committee to assess value of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The court "lacks the authority to grant the requested relief," Rhodes says. "The court further concludes however that even if it did have the authority and discretion to grant this motion, that … [Read more...]

My Takeaway (so far) From Judge Rhodes’ Detroit Bankruptcy Hearing (and Grand Bargain misgivings)

I've learned (from cases like this) that trying to interpret judges' off-the-cuff comments in courtroom hearings is like trying to read tea leaves: They may be tipping their own hands or they may merely be playing devil's advocate, attempting to draw out further insights and greater clarity from the attorneys arguing a case. That said, Judge Steven Rhodes seems to have made all the right noises at this morning's hearing on whether to monetize the Detroit Institute of Arts' [DIA's] collection. As reported in Nathan Bomey's live blog for … [Read more...]

News Flash: Detroit Free Press Live-Blogging Bankruptcy Hearing on Museum’s Art UPDATED

UPDATE: As I posted this, court arguments regarding the Detroit Institute of Arts' [DIA's] collection had just wrapped up. But this just in from Nathan Bomey's live blog from Judge Steven Rhodes' bankruptcy hearing: "Judge Rhodes said he plans to rule on the DIA art committee motion at 3 p.m. Gov. Snyder and legislative leaders plan to announce a deal today at 3:30 p.m. to contribute state funding to a foundation funding [the] deal to help spin off the DIA and reduce pension cuts. But as you can probably tell from this hearing, there will be … [Read more...]

Progress (but no closure) in “Grand Bargain” to Protect Detroit Institute’s Art

The Detroit Institute of Arts has just issued the following statement regarding today's announcement by the federal mediator, Chief District Judge Gerald Rosen, that some $330 million has been pledged by local and national foundations (identified at the above link) to support the "Grand Bargain" to prevent sales from the Detroit Institute of Arts' treasured collection to help address the city's financial crisis: The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is an active partner in the effort to develop a solution that will assist in the revitalization … [Read more...]

My NPR Soundbite on Detroit Institute of Arts’ “Grand Bargain”

Did you have better things to do this Christmas morning than listening to me on NPR? If so, you can now hear me here (starting at 3:08), near the end of the segment on the Detroit Institute of Arts by NPR's Elizabeth Blair, which aired on "Morning Edition." (Click the arrow to the left of the audio bar below.) For the transcript of the full segment (accompanied by another of those stomach-turning shopping-list slideshows), go here. To be clear, I don't object to NPR's or the Detroit Free Press' posting of images of the endangered works … [Read more...]

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