The famous art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts—potentially worth $866 million—might be sold off in yet another attempt to temporarily postpone the black city’s inevitable collapse.
The idea of selling the art, along with the city’s water department, to raise funds to meet Detroit’s short-term running costs, has been mooted after a court ruled that the formerly majority white industrial metropolis could declare bankruptcy after all.
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) dates has been a beacon of culture for the Detroit area for well over a century. Founded in 1885, when the city was majority white, the DIA’s collection is one of the top six in the USA.
According to a press release issued by the DIA, it declared its opposition to the attempt to sell off its holdings:
“The DIA opposes the motion filed last week by certain City creditors to allow them to form a committee to oversee the valuation and sale or “monetization” of the museum art collection to satisfy municipal obligations,” the statement said.
“The DIA remains hopeful that the Emergency Manager will recognize the City’s fiduciary duty to protect the museum art collection for future generations and that he will abide by the Michigan Attorney General’s opinion that the City holds the art collection in trust and cannot use it to satisfy City obligations. If the art is placed in jeopardy, the DIA remains committed to take action to preserve this cultural birthright for future generations.”
The DIA was responding to a leaked letter from Doug Woodham, president of the US branch of the Christie’s auction house, which said that the nearly 2,800 pieces of city-bought art have a market value between $452 million and $866 million.
The bankruptcy ruling followed a recent nine-day trial over whether Detroit met specific conditions under federal law to stay in bankruptcy court.
Detroit, which once offered good-paying, blue-collar jobs, peaked at 1.8 million residents in 1950 but has lost more than a million since then—mostly whites who fled the increasingly militant and criminal Third World element which then proceeded to trash large parts of the city.
With the departure of the whites, tax revenue in the city—which is larger in area than Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco combined—collapsed and the current city administration has no hope of paying pensions, pensioner health insurance and the mountain of debt (some $18 billion) it has incurred just to keep a façade of government going.
The court case resulted from an objection to bankruptcy proceedings launched by representatives of the former civil servants, who argued that they should not be punished by the collapse of the city.
In turn, Detroit argued that the city needed bankruptcy protection for the sake of “beleaguered residents suffering from poor services such as slow to non-existent police response, darkened streetlights and erratic garbage collections.”
Judge Steven Rhodes said pensions, like any contract, can be cut, adding that a provision in Michigan’s Constitution protecting public pensions is not a bulletproof shield in a bankruptcy.
The city says pension funds are short by $3.5 billion. Emergency city manager Kevin Orr recently offered just pennies on every dollar owed during meetings with creditors.