$330m deal to save Detroit Institute of Arts

January 14 2014

Image of $330m deal to save Detroit Institute of Arts

Picture: BG

It looks like convincing efforts are being made to avoid a sale of the DIA's collection. A number of US charities is coming to the rescue, and have so far raised $330m. Says the New York Times:

As part of the plan, which negotiators have been working on quietly for more than two months, the museum would be transferred from city ownership to the control of a nonprofit, which would protect it from future municipal financial threats. The foundations would stipulate that Detroit must put the money into its pension system, said Alberto Ibargüen, president of the Knight Foundation.

The unusual effort by the foundations was not the first instance of charitable groups’ and high-profile figures’ trying to help the ailing city. Previous contributors include Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, and Warren E. Buffett, the billionaire investor, who attended an event with city and state leaders in November to announce a $20 million initiative to help small businesses in Detroit.

But it is far from certain whether the new pledges will bring about a deal to save the museum while also helping the city meet its pension obligations, and several possible roadblocks remain. As much as $500 million may be needed to protect the art from an auction, officials have said, so additional philanthropic donations are being sought. Detroit is also contending with some 100,000 creditors in its federal bankruptcy case, and some are expected to oppose the plan. Even if the notion were to proceed, it would not be enough to resolve the city’s pension underfunding, but merely to ease it somewhat.

Some way to go. But a most encouraging start. It's a shame we don't have a similar zeal here in the UK against deaccessioning. Southampton is the latest council pondering a raid on their local museum.

Meanwhile, the Detroit scheme has met with a cool reception from the International Committee of the Fourth International's World Socialist Web Site:

The scheme is predicated on ending the century-long public ownership of the DIA and handing control of its priceless masterpieces to the powerful corporate and financial interests that stand behind the foundations. For this reason alone it must be opposed. The art belongs to the people of Detroit, not the Wall Street bankers or corporate-backed foundations!

The foundations are not neutral “charities,” but multibillion-dollar operations that have been involved in the dismantling of public education, the promotion of charter schools and other pro-business initiatives in the US and internationally.

As John Cleese almost asked, 'What have the arts philanthropists ever done for us?'

Update - a reader writes:

Regarding the DIA one should remind the World Socialists that it was the capitalists and foundations that provided the art or the funds to purchase the art that is being saved.

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