The City of Detroit has hired Christie’s to value, and presumably sell, part of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art. It posted this statement on its website earlier today:
We confirm that Christieâ€™s Appraisals Inc. was asked and has entered into an agreement to appraise a portion of the City owned collection at the Detroit Institute of Art. Â In addition we will also assist and advise on how to realize value for the City while leaving the art in the Cityâ€™s ownership.
Appraisal of organizations and individual collections is a regular part of our normal business and Christieâ€™s was asked to assist due to our expertise in this area across all fine art categories and eras. Â We understand that a valuation of all the City’s assets (extending well beyond the art) is one of many steps that will be necessary for the legal system to reach a conclusion about the best long term solution for the citizens of Detroit.
At Christie’s, we are passionate about art and understand the importance of the contribution that institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts offer to the community and the world at large. Â We are proud of our long history of support to museums, including the DIA.Â We want to continue to focus our efforts on being a positive force in both the interests of the City of Detroit and its arts community, including working with our fellow arts professionals at the DIA and with the City to find alternatives to selling that would still provide the City with needed revenue.
The last paragraph was meant to calm critics (like me), I suppose. It doesn’t.
Here’s the statement issued in response by the DIA:
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has learned that Christieâ€™s, at the request of the Emergency Manager, plans to proceed with a valuation of the DIA collection, and we will be cooperating completely in that process. However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM’s focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit’s most important cultural institution.
In addition, recent moves in Oakland and Macomb counties to invalidate the tri-county millage if art is sold virtually ensure that any forced sale of art would precipitate the rapid demise of the DIA. Removing $23 million in annual operating funds â€“ nearly 75% of the museumâ€™s operating budget â€“ and violating the trust of donors and supporters would cripple the museum, putting an additional financial burden on our already struggling city. The DIA has long been doing business without City of Detroit operating support; any move that compromises its financial stability will endanger the museum and further challenge the Cityâ€™s future.