Detroit Institute of Arts Collection Is Being Reappraised

The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Photo: Benjamin Sutton.

At the behest of the city’s creditors, who have accused the museum of undervaluing its artwork in past estimates, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is reappraising its collection, reports the New York Times.

An initial assessment of the portion of the collection directly purchased by the city, which owns the museum, was carried out by Christie’s late last year. The auction house gave an estimate of between $454 million and $867 million for the works, which include some of the museum’s finest.

Based on those figures, Detroit emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, has created a “Grand Bargain” that will keep the museum’s collection intact, rather than selling it to alleviate Detroit’s debt. The proposed deal would put over $800 million, acquired through private donations, state grants, and DIA’s own fundraising, into city pension coffers in exchange for taking the sale of the art off the table.

Creditors who oppose this arrangement (see artnet News article), feel that the museum should have evaluated the entire collection, including donations, even though the original owners would have cause to sue over the sale of their donations. Some experts believe the collection in its entirety could fetch more than $2 billion.

Now, the desired reevaluation is taking place. According to the Times, the Detroit Free Press quoted city lawyer Bruce Bennett, as calling the new appraisal more extensive and “less granular.” If the new estimate is significantly higher than the figure from Christie’s, it could jeopardize Orr’s plan and place the DIA’s artwork on the auction block.

Meanwhile, Orr has continued to warn retirees that their pensions may be severely cut if they do not accept the “Grand Bargain,” as per a Detroit Free Press report. The state senate is expected to vote on Michigan’s proposed $195-million contribution to the plan next week, but if pensioners reject the plan their decision will be irrelevant, and pension reductions will be enacted.

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