In Michigan, everything is for sale!
Or it might be, if "emergency manager" Kevyn Orr decides to sell of the multi-billion dollar collection of fine art in the city's art museum to pay off its debts.
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is considering whether the multibillion-dollar collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts should be considered city assets that potentially could be sold to cover about $15 billion in debt.What a sorry state to be in.
How much is the art at the DIA worth? Nobody knows exactly, but several billion dollars might well be a low estimate.
Keep in mind that many of these paintings have traveled a long way to get to Detroit from France, Spain and the Netherlands, among other places. Some have had dozens of owners. Others have uncertain and -- likely a few, uncomfortable -- provenance. They weren't created in Detroit by Detroit artists, but for decades, they have been on public display for the appreciation of Michiganders in a place that has unique cultural significance for local residents.
Yes -- it might turn out that Detroit can sell the collection and the paintings will find a new home. They've been sold before. They might be sold again.
But it would be tragic for this struggling city to lose one of its pre-emininent cultural institutions.
Even more tragic for these paintings to disappear from public view into the villa of a Russian oligarch in Cyprus, or the boardroom of an insurance company in Japan, never or rarely to be seen again.
Please read: How Museums Get Rid of Stuff, a new diary that discusses the ethics and processes used by museums to transfer, sell or destroy objects in their collection. It's not as easy -- or shouldn't be -- as simply having a fire sale and inviting the Koch Brothers in to take their pick.