Sunday, July 28, 2013

the "family" silver WILL be sold to pay these bills....,


NYTimes | As Detroit files for bankruptcy — the largest American city ever to do so — the impressive collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts has become a political bargaining chip in a fight that could drag on for years between the city and its army of creditors, who have said in no uncertain terms that the artworks must be considered a salable asset. 

“We haven’t proposed selling any asset,” said Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Kevyn D. Orr, the state-appointed emergency manager appointed to deal with Detroit’s debts, which could amount to more than $18 billion. “But we haven’t taken any asset off the table. We can’t. We cannot negotiate in good faith with our creditors by taking assets off the table. And all of our creditors have asked about the worth of the D.I.A. And we’ve told them that they’re welcome to find out.” 

Unlike most art museums around the country, which are owned by nonprofit corporations that hold a collection in trust for citizens, the institute is owned by Detroit, as is much of its collection — which is not particularly deep but includes gems by artists like Bruegel, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and van Gogh. It is considered among the top 10 encyclopedic museums in the country. 

Museums do not generally appraise the market value of their works beyond a blanket amount for insurance policies. But experts have speculated that the institute’s works could bring more than $2 billion if sold.
About a month ago, the institute’s officials were contacted by Christie’s auction house, which asked for an inventory of works and asked if appraisers could visit to assess the collection. It is unclear whether such a visit took place and whether it was creditors or someone else who enlisted Christie’s to begin an appraisal. (Mr. Nowling said that the emergency manager’s office did not do so, and Christie’s declined to comment.)
But as Detroit’s financial fate comes before a federal bankruptcy judge, it is clear that the desire of creditors to determine the collection’s worth will not go away. 

The museum, which has hired a well-known bankruptcy lawyer, Richard Levin, to advise it on its possible exposure, declined to comment on Friday. But on its Facebook page, the museum said: “As a municipal bankruptcy of this size is unprecedented, the D.I.A. will continue to carefully monitor the situation, fully confident that the emergency manager, the governor and the courts will act in the best interest of the City, the public and the museum.” 

Few large American art museums have found themselves in the financial cross hairs quite as often as the Detroit Institute of Arts. Not long after it was founded in 1885, it became enmeshed in a lawsuit that led to a loss of city appropriations, putting it in budgetary straits. In 1955, during a city financial crisis, the museum’s acquisitions mostly ceased. And in 1973, during another economic downturn, it had to close temporarily.