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View Diary: How Museums Get Rid of Stuff: Museum Codes of Ethics and Detroit (36 comments)

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  •  Some of this is the City's fault (18+ / 0-)

    The DIA is uniquely vulnerable. It was a department of the City of Detroit in its entirety from 1919 to 1998, and the city is still the legal owner of the art collection; the DIA now manages it and operates the facility (the city cannot, for example, sell off the museum building). But the art itself? The city still owns that.

    There is no provision in the operating contract regarding the possibility of a municipal bankruptcy. That city-owned art is an asset. Some pieces have binding restrictions that would result in donor reversion rather than sale, but many do not, and there's a real case to be made that, if Detroit goes bankrupt, the art goes on the hock whether anyone likes it or not.

    Orr's even stated that he's already got creditors asking about it.

    Now, the right choice here is to find a better way to solve this, and determine a means to roll the ownership rights to the art collection over to the DIA to prevent any possibility of this nonsense. I refuse to pen an apologia for Orr here. But while this art collection has the same ethical and moral protections as any other major museum, it may very well lack legal force to those protections. Although, to be fair, there's a taxpayer equity argument that will be raised in court if this goes much further.

    Regardless, everyone there, Republican or Democrat, and assuredly including Orr, should be working overtime to fix this problem and save the DIA with its art intact. Anything else is to gut the cultural strength of an already suffering city and ensure that there will never be an economic recovery for Detroit.

    •  Good point. I was wondering about that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine, Penny GC, Wood Dragon

      unfortunately, without seeing what the actual contract is between the city and the DIA, I'm not entirely clear what protections the artworks actually have. Some (like those purchased by the City) are going to be more vulnerable than those that were donated with restrictions.

      I am getting a sense that the DIA's operating agreement states that the DIA has custodianship over the works, and that might be the only protection those works. It's like a parent armed with a butter knife protecting their child from a hitman.

    •  I agree that the DIA board has a harder time (5+ / 0-)

      than the boards of most American museums because of the history of DIA, but that does not imply that they will roll over for Orr. They will fight to keep the collection and they can point out that no laws (not even Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Act) require municipalities to sell anything to pay the bills.

      I don't see how Orr would get a nickel from this within a decade (See Barnes Foundation timeline).

      Americans can make our country better.

      by freelunch on Fri May 24, 2013 at 03:10:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  the city owns the building, too. (1+ / 0-)
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      VClib

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