Michigan Legislature Approves ‘Grand Bargain’ to Save Detroit Institute of Arts

The Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Despite continued opposition from the bankrupt city’s creditors, Detroit’s so-called “Grand Bargain” to keep the Detroit Institute of Arts collection intact while funding city pension coffers has been approved by the Michigan state legislature, reports the Detroit News.

The plan, introduced by emergency city manager Kevyn Orr, calls on the state to contribute $195 million to help minimize cuts to Detroit’s pensions. The museum and several foundations will also chip in, freeing the museum from city control and the risk of a fire sale while ensuring the museum does its part to help repair city finances.

Senator Tupac Hunter spoke in favor of providing the funding during the senate session, saying “it makes pensioners as whole as possible and protects the Detroit Institute of Arts from having its artwork seized and sold off.”

Others testified against the bill, such as Annie Patnaude, deputy director of Americans for Prosperity, who asked “What’s more important: A painting on the wall or someone’s pension? Detroit needs to give up some of its assets.” Nevertheless, the pension aid bill passed by a 21-17 margin.

The Grand Bargain still has a few hurdles to jump. Most importantly, it must be approved by Detroit pensioners. Orr has warned them that rejecting the plan will lead to severe cuts to their pension checks (27 percent, versus only 4.5 percent if the plan is enacted). They have until July 11, when bankruptcy court ends voting, to decide.

As artnet News previously reported, the DIA collection is currently undergoing a reappraisal at the behest of city creditors. As initial assessment from Christie’s evaluated only artwork purchased with city funds, a small portion of the overall collection, but creditors want to get their hands on the whole kit and kaboodle.

Bankruptcy hearings under Judge Steven Rhodes are set to begin July 24.

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