Circling Detroit (ctd.)

October 21 2013

Image of Circling Detroit (ctd.)

Picture: BG/DIA

Back in the summer I reported on Christie's visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts to value the collection there, now that the bankrupt city is considering selling the art. Now, more information has emerged about what's going on. In the LA Times, Mark Caro tells us that Christie's staff visit the museum on Mondays, when it's shut, and that the auction house is being paid $200,000. Also, only works in the DIA specifically bought by the City are being valued for possible sale (so not gifts or other acquisitions):

Out of the DIA's 60,000 pieces, 6,000 are on view, and 3,300 are classified as city of Detroit purchases rather than those donated by patrons [...].

Christie's is appraising only the city-purchased works, so Rivera's courtyard murals, a gift from Edsel B. Ford, are not at risk, but many of the DIA's most famous paintings — such as Van Gogh's straw-hatted "Self Portrait" (1887), Rembrandt's "The Visitation" (1640) and Giovanni Bellini's "Madonna and Child" (1509) — were bought by the city before the museum's 1927 opening.

There's also some talk of art being sold, but leased back by the museum. For what it's worth, I suspect some prize works will be sold in the end, if only out of political necessity. Very few politicians like to be seen as protective of 'the arts' over pensioners. So the DIA will struggle on, just without some of its star pieces.

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