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23:57
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Detroit mired in fresh controversy over sale of 60,000-piece art collection

City suburbs attempting to halt rumoured sale of prestigious art collection, which may be up for grabs in bid to pay city’s debts

The beleaguered city of Detroit, the largest in the US to file for bankruptcy, is embroiled in a fresh controversy over fears that it may be preparing to sell some of its 60,000-piece art collection, one of the most prestigious in the US.

Officials from suburban counties have warned that if the city’s bankruptcy managers sell any assets in the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) – whose collection includes a self-portrait by Van Gogh, a 27-panel fresco by Diego Rivera and works by Rembrandt and Matisse – they will cut their contributions to its funding. The combined income from three counties surrounding the city is worth $23m a year to the museum, a sum that represents almost 75% of its operating budget. …

… The possibility that city-owned art in the DIA collection might be sold as part of Detroit’s plan to settle an estimated $18bn it owes to bondholders, pensioners and others, continues to be one of the most controversial aspects of the city’s bankruptcy plan.

The contract between the counties and the institute stipulates that it should be operated in accordance with professional museum standards. These include a clause saying that the proceeds of art sold must be used to buy more art.

Selling artwork for other reasons breaches such standards, say representatives of the art institute itself.

The museum and Michigan attorney general Bill Schuette have said that the art cannot be sold because it is held in a charitable trust for the people of Michigan. Orr last week told Reuters he disagreed with that position.

However, Pamela Marcil, a spokeswoman for the DIA, said on Wednesday they were taking the continued threat to the collection seriously. She said that the news about Christie’s engagement with the museum last week had sparked a new wave of protest.

"We are concerned any time it is even mentioned," Marcil said."The situation is unprecedented and no one knows what is going to happen."

But she warned that if the city did sell even a single work of art, “we would take it to court and it could be tied up for years.”

No one from Synder’s office or the office of the emergency was available for comment when contacted by the Guardian. …

(via Detroit mired in fresh controversy over sale of 60,000-piece art collection | World news | theguardian.com)

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