The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) announced on a plan to raise $100 million for the city of Detroit, in an attempt to save its art and secure it from any future attempts to sell off the valuable collection.
The DIA's massive art collection has been in a precarious position since the city was approved for bankruptcy in December of last year. The city's sellable art —which Christie's has valued at between $454 and $867 million, but others say is actually worth much — has been eyed for sale as a way to raise funds for the city. Though selling art to pay off old debts is seen as taboo, creditors have made the case that holding on to the DIA's valuable trove diverts funding away from pensioners. The museum has worked to delink the two, arguing that they will work to save both their art and individual retirement funds -- which is exactly what they have just pledged to do.
In a press release, the DIA explained that the funds won't go directly to the museum:
None of the funds raised by the DIA will directly benefit the DIA. The funds will be directed to a third party, which will disburse the funds for pension payments. As part of the agreement, the City of Detroit will transfer to the DIA free and clear legal title to the museum building, the art collection and all related assets. The DIA will continue to operate the museum with funds raised from its current donor base and from the tri-county millage.
The $100 million will be added to $330 million raised by private donors for the museum, and another $40 million from the W.K. Kellogg foundation. The museum had said previously that it won't be able to raise the money alone, but has reached out to companies that have agreed to help it reach the figure. TheArtNewspaper.com reports that according to DIA Director Graham Beal, the southeast-Michigan-based companies are those that "have not for the past decade contributed to the DIA but have a deep interest in the future of Detroit."
The $470 million is in addition to the $350 million (pending approval) the governor of Michigan has committed to the city, in order to help "reduce and mitigate the impact [of the bankruptcy] on retirees." Snyder made clear that the commitment was not to be used to help bail out banks and other creditors, in keeping with bankruptcy judge Steven W. Rhode's commitment to not aid the banks, which helped usher the city into financial meltdown in the first place.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the deal could be good news for the whole city:
The DIA’s $100 million commitment marks a potential turning point in Detroit’s historic Chapter 9 bankruptcy, helping clear a path to a less painful and faster resolution to the bankruptcy.
In the DIA statement, Board of Directors Chairman Eugene A. Gargaro, Jr. reminded the public that the museum itself is not out of money:
It’s important to note that the DIA is not in bankruptcy, in fact it is functioning extraordinarily well. And, while this new challenge will stretch our fundraising abilities to their capacity, the DIA will continue to provide the residents of Detroit and Michigan with amazing art and exciting programs... The DIA has consistently met its financial challenges and goals and will meet this challenge with enthusiasm and confidence.
Judge Gerald Rosen, who is facilitating the bankruptcy deal, thanked the DIA for making the pledge:
The mediators are deeply appreciative of the DIA’s decision to step forward in such a significant way as a partner in this effort to help protect pensions of Detroit’s retirees and safeguard for our City, region and State the DIA’s treasured art collection... We all recognize the magnitude of this great undertaking and appreciate the depth of the DIA’s commitment to the City of Detroit and its retirees.
Though the move doesn't guarantee that Detroit will be able to hold on to its valuable art collection, which boasts paintings by Van Gogh, Matisse and others, but it is a step in the right direction for the DIA.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.