New Appraisal Pegs Detroit Institute of Arts Collection at $4.6 Billion

The Great Hall at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: bobosh_t, via Flickr.
The Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

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

Remember that initial appraisal of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) collection that put it at between $454 million and $867 million? Well, a new appraisal commissioned by the city of Detroit and the DIA has valued the institution’s holdings at as much as 10 times higher, between $2.8 billion and $4.6 billion, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The latest appraisal (available as a PDF here), conducted by New York-based art investment company Artvest—which was paid $112,500 for the report—was based on a valuation of the 60,000 or so objects in the museum’s collection. However, the report also notes that if the city were to sell off the entire collection—the dreaded “fire sale” scenario—it would likely bring much less money into Detroit’s empty coffers, between $1.1 billion and $1.8 billion.

Major factors that would cause the collection’s market value to dip as low as a quarter of the $4.6 billion valuation, according to Artvest’s 72-page report, include the market’s insatiable thirst for post-war and contemporary works, to the exclusion of most other categories—categories that make up the lion’s share of the DIA collection—and the across-the-board devaluation that would result from flooding the market with so much work.

Other factors Artvest considers potential deterrents to selling off all 60,000 objects include the inevitable litigation from donors and other parties, which could drastically draw out the process and prevent the sale of large portions of the collection. The report concludes that selling the collection could end up netting as little as $850 million, nearly the same sum that the city and institution are hoping to raise through their so-called Grand Bargain.

“It’s one thing to say in the abstract that the art is worth billions, but it’s another thing if you look at the factors if you actually tried to sell it,” Bill Nowling, a spokesperson for the city’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr, told the Free Press. “The report gets at whether it’s even feasible and gives us scenarios of how a sale might unfold. It makes a good argument that you just can’t do it from a practical standpoint.”

The report will be an essential part of the city’s case against selling off the DIA collection when its bankruptcy trial begins next month.

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