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View Diary: In case you thought Detroit's priceless art collection was safe, it's not. Appraisers have arrived. (368 comments)

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  •  A false choice (72+ / 0-)

    Retirees are likely to be far down on the list of who gets taken care of unless we put up a HUGE fuss about it (many of us are.) Banks are far more ikely to get attended to. It's actually part of the Emergency Manager law that bond holders get paid 100%.

    More importantly, that museum attracts more revenues to the city than much else and liquidating its holdings is about the most sort-sighte, ill-informed choice you could make.

    In other words, selling off those assets does NOT mean retires get paid. Not by a long shot.

    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist."
    -- Dr. Peter Venkman

    Join me, Anne C. Savage & LOLGOP at

    by Eclectablog on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 07:51:48 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  CAN the city sell the donated pieces? or were the (9+ / 0-)

      original donors canny enough to put controls on their gifts? Like, for example, if the city ever tries to sell masterpiece X, the gift is voided and piece reverts to family control...  I wonder if the buffoons planning to "make a killing" have even thought of that???

      anybody from Detroit or the art world know about that?

      "real" work : a job where you wash your hands BEFORE you use the bathroom...

      by chimene on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 09:16:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Truly, I doubt it crossed many donors' minds back (12+ / 0-)

        when these works were giving.  Detroit was a mighty city with a powerful economic base.  Back when the Fords and the Fishers and the Dodges were building the core of these collections, I don't think they ever could have imagined the city in the situation it's in now.  If they had even contemplated the thought of the museum selling the pieces, it probably would have been for the possibility of using proceeds to buy something even more spectacular.  

        It would be such a loss.

        DOMA delenda est. DOMA: September 21, 1996 - June 26, 2013

        by lineatus on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 09:27:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not familiar with the specifics there,... (9+ / 0-)

        ...but most gifts by far are made without conditions.  Gifts made by persons who are deceased now would be particularly likely to have no restrictions.

        There are, of course, the ethical and moral arguments against such sales, but that kind of stuff is quickly gagged and stuffed in a bare closet.  And we are in times that have seen ethics and moral reasoning decline across all disciplines and enterprises.

        I am not anticipating a good outcome here.  Basically the city is being abandoned in perpetuity.

        •  Held in trust (16+ / 0-)

          Courtesy of the worst AG in the country. Even a blind dog finds a bone sometimes I guess.

          It is my opinion, therefore, that the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts is held by the City of Detroit in charitable trust for the people of Michigan, and no piece in the collection may thus be sold, conveyed, or transferred to satisfy City debts or obligations. In issuing this opinion, I recognize the serious financial hardships that face the City, the difficulties that the people who live and work in the City have endured for decades, and the many challenges facing the citizens of the City of Detroit and the State in the future. Yet, in the 128 years since the creation of the Detroit Institute of Arts, at no time have the people demanded that their most precious cultural resources be sold in order to satisfy financial obligations. To the contrary, the citizens of this State recognize that abandoning or selling the public's artwork would damage not only the City's but the State's cultural commonwealth. In Michigan, we not only appreciate our cultural treasures, we guard them zealously in charitable trust for all state residents, present and future.

          "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove." P.G. Wodehouse

          by gsbadj on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 05:29:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I seem to remember an art collection in PA (6+ / 0-)

            The Barnes collection that was much coveted but thought to be protected as a school by a foundation with similar covenants. Its attack by the rich and greedy to include many popular liberal Democrats who thought that it would be a good thing to give the ordinary man access to its art by moving it to Philadelphia, was documented in "The Art of the Steal".

            Barnes's conception of his foundation as a school rather than a typical museum was shaped through his collaboration with the philosopher John Dewey, who helped draw up its mandate.[8][9][10] Barnes also hired two of Dewey's students, Lawrence Buermeyer (1889–1970) and Thomas Munro (1897–1974), to assist him with the early educational programs. Buermeyer and Munro each served as Associate Director of Education for several years, while Dewey served in the largely honorary position of Director of Education.[11][12]

            Another collaborator was Violette de Mazia, who arrived as a student from Paris, became a close associate of Barnes, worked as a teacher of art education, and ultimately became head of the art education program. She accompanied him on buying trips from the 1920s through the 1940s.[13] She continued to express his philosophy after his death. The Violette de Mazia Foundation, established after her death, and the Barnes Foundation came to agreement in 2011 to continue to allow the de Mazia Foundation students access to the collection for art education after its move to the new building.[14][15]

            Barnes created detailed terms of operation in an indenture of trust to be honored in perpetuity after his death. These included limiting public admission to two days a week, so the school could use the art collection primarily for student study, and prohibiting the loan of works in the collection, colored reproductions of its works, touring the collection, and presenting touring exhibitions of other art. Matisse is said to have hailed the school as the only sane place in America to view art.[16]

            In 1941 and 1942, Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) gave a series of lectures on the history of philosophy at the gallery; these would later become his landmark "A History of Western Philosophy".[17] Barnes died in in 1951.

            A History of Western Philosophy is an ironic epitath as the philanthrophy of the plutocracy, by agreement among the rich and powerful that it was in the best interests of we the people eventually "saved" the collection as it saved the artifacts of Greece and Rome, and the raw materials of Africa and Asia, by taking them someplace "safe".
            After a decade of legal challenges, the public was allowed regular access to the collection in 1961. Public access was expanded to two and a half days a week, with a limit of 500 visitors per week; reservations were required by telephone at least two weeks in advance.[18] An editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, with the consent of, but not directly on behalf of, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, had filed an earlier suit for access but been unsuccessful.[19]
            It took a decade to go from private to public
            In 1992, Richard H. Glanton, president of the foundation, said the museum needed extensive repairs to upgrade its mechanical systems, preserve its fabric, provide for maintenance and preservation of artworks, and improve security. The old Philadelphia firm J.S. Cornell & Son was the contractor of choice. In order to raise the money, Glanton decided to break some terms of the indenture. From 1993 to 1995, 83 of the collection's Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings were sent on a world tour, attracting large crowds in numerous cities, including Washington, D.C.; Fort Worth, Texas; Paris; Tokyo; Toronto; and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.[20][21] People opposed to the loans and touring of works from the collection challenged the decisions in court, but lost.[22]

            The foundation tried to extend its opening hours and allow more visitors, but was rebuffed by the governments of Merion and Montgomery County. Later, financial irregularities were discovered in the administration of the collection. Between the renovations, the irregularities, and the associated legal expenses of court challenges, the financial situation of the Barnes declined.

            The revenues earned from the tour of paintings were not enough to ensure its endowment. By fall 1998, Glanton and fellow board member Niara Sudarkasa were suing each other. Lincoln University, which controlled four of the five trustee seats by Barnes's will, began an investigation into the foundation's finances. The foundation's board believed that a similar investigation was warranted for activities during Glanton's tenure as president. In 1998, the board of directors began a forensic audit conducted by Deloitte Touche, which showed the foundation had needed greater accountability and internal controls from 1992 to 1998.[23]

            In 1998, Kimberly Camp was hired as the foundation's first professional CEO. During her seven-year tenure, she turned the struggling foundation around and provided necessary support to the petition to move the Barnes to Philadelphia.

            Bottom line in order to "save" the foundation its paintings were taken away to someplace "safe" and the wishes of its trust ignored.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:05:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  yep, that's his argument. (0+ / 0-)

            I don't think a judge will buy it if it gets to court.

            •  There was a good diary earlier this year (0+ / 0-)

              that was far more informative than this one about the state of the collection; the ownership questions; and the city's latitude in selling it.

              From what I recall, the art collection is currently not being well cared for; the city probably doesn't have a choice to sell if they are so directed; and the art community probably doesn't have any way of stopping a sale.

              Based on what I know about the art world, the best that Detroit could hope for here is having a few billionaires come in and rescue the institution - but I'd be reluctant to keep the art there if the city continues to crumble to the point where there are no fire fighters or police to protect it.

              I know that sounds harsh, but these are the kinds of luxuries that societies give up (knowingly or not) when they adopt austerity policies.

      •  It does depend on donor stated intent (3+ / 0-)

        Some visionary givers understand that survival might depend upon liquidation of assets and leave the option. Sometimes the artwork isn't donated at all but on long-term loan to the museum because of the piece's size, etc.

        It would be my guess that someone is looking to see what's possible in this area. For what it's worth I'd caution against this except in the case of last resort--the onslaught of lawsuits from various constituencies would be a financial disaster.

        Detroit is compressing and its resources are exhausted. This is also a reality. I'd recommend re-zoning as a measure, break the city up into a manageable size. Do that in addition to the population condensing already in discussion and reclaim land for planting. I suspect Detroit is the first of a number of cities that have sprawled beyond manageable size. There needs to be a plan to deal with these population shifts.

        "If I could have one wish, I would have people accept the importance of our common humanity." --Pres. Bill Clinton, The Today Show, 09/21/06

        by desordre remplir on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:41:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  banks /= bondholders (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justanothernyer, Victor Ward

      most mini bonds are held by individuals, and quite a lot are held by retirees.

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