Detroit in hot water over proposal to sell art

Even though the city is running out of cash quickly, its emergency manager is finding resistance to one possible solution.

By Kim Peterson May 24, 2013 12:43PM
Auguste Rodin's sculpture Say you're broke and are about to lose your home. You have a valuable painting that's been in your family for generations. Should you sell it to raise money?

That's the question stirring up controversy in Detroit, which is nearly bankrupt and could run out of cash within weeks. Last month, the city had only $64 million in cash but $226 million in bills. Its libraries are shutting down, and its Police Department can't even pay for gang squads anymore.

So the city's new emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is floating a proposal to sell some of the pieces of art in the multibillion-dollar collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The city owns the building and the collection, after all -- a collection that, by the way, includes amazing works from the likes of Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse.

As painful as the idea may be, Orr says, it's something that must be examined. "It is an asset of the city to a certain degree," his spokesman told The Detroit Free Press. "We've got a responsibility . . . to rationalize that asset, to make sure we understand what's it's worth.

The idea is running into plenty of resistance. The museum has hired a lawyer, and it said Friday that the city is legally prohibited from selling any artwork. Patrons of the museum are in a tizzy. The American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., is promising "hue and cry the likes of which you've never heard."

But Gawker raises a very good question that so far the city can't answer: "What good is having a van Gogh if you can't keep the lights on to see it?"

More on moneyNOW


32Comments
May 24, 2013 2:04PM
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Wonderful Liberals living in beautiful healthy areas with clean air but their "voter slaves" have to live in filthy stinkin places like Detroit. Well I guess food stamps and welfare are worth it.

May 24, 2013 3:16PM
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Damn right sell everything of value to pay the bills ------- All those poor small businesses that have been floating goods to the city to keep it going and now your going to go bankrupt on them------

You should have to see every available asset and pay your bills and then if that's not enough

then file for bankruptcy////////////////////

May 25, 2013 10:11AM
May 24, 2013 4:23PM
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Detroit needs to sell some assets to raise cash or go bankrupt! Its that simple . There is no more time ! No tax base , city services, Police or Fire protection . Less than 700.000 people in a city built for 2 million . And a BLACK government for the last 40yrs .. No diversity in this city at all ! NONE...If you look at other cities who had this problem , they went out of their way to get diversity into their cities ! Detroit needs to attract white people ! It will never prosper with one race in control ! 40yrs shows that ! The spiral began with the WHITE FLIGHT.... It can only come back with WHITE FLIGHT into the city... I wonder if the brothers in Dicktroit understand that . LOL But then most of the smart ones moved out yrs ago.. lol
May 24, 2013 4:48PM
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Let's see, Detroit is admittedly slashing their law enforcement budget and now the world knows they have some very valuable artwork.

Art thieves from around the world are probably booking tickets to Motown as we speak.

May 24, 2013 2:15PM
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Just let it go...  Its like pawning your TV and everything you have just to float another month or 2.  Just go into bankruptcy and be done with it.
May 25, 2013 11:46AM
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if detroit was an art piece, it'd be a jackson pollack painting.
May 28, 2013 10:07AM
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Just watched a documentary on the fall of Detroit last night.  Made me frustrated to watch the stubbornness of people not willing to accept the inevitable change.  They would rather see their city crash and burn.  They already lost their jobs in the auto industry because they refused to acknowledge the inevitable.  Change. 

 

They sat on their porches saying how the houses around them have been either looted or burned by vandals.  They sat in their meetings saying how they weren't going to take the push and pull of the auto industry leaders.  When the truth is this... the world IS bigger than Detroit.  The auto industry leaders and people living in Detroit do have viable choices outside the city. The size of the city is the smallest in over 100 years.  YET, the people who do not see the outside world won't make the size of the city small enough for them to sustain.  They STILL want utility, buildings, sprawled out far and wide... too huge for the small group of people left to sustain.

 

I hate government interference.  BUT... in this case, whoever steps up to the plate and tries to take control with a tread of reason, they will be beaten down.  The life will be sucked outta them.  I say, let the city crash and burn.  Let the looters take control of the museum and loot the art.  Let the chandeliers be removed by looters.  THEN AND ONLY THEN will the people understand..... maybe.

May 27, 2013 12:29PM
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No one will talk about the real problem in Detroit, and it is too late now. Passed the point of no return.

 

May 27, 2013 4:51PM
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Better to sell it then seeing it start to "disappear"
May 25, 2013 2:12AM
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The people who paid for most of that art have either died or moved out of the city leaving behind mostly people who probably don't even know who or what a Van Gogh is. Good thing that those retired school superintendents who were forced to resign due to incompetence are getting double dip pensions from local and state governments have their union bargained pensions in tact!
May 28, 2013 12:54PM
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where is rom emanuel when you need him? oh, that's right. he's overseeing the destruction of chicago.
May 25, 2013 11:46AM
May 24, 2013 2:03PM
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A city is not a person or a company. If it were a city or person in this condition i would say sell but not the city. Those are comunity assets not sources of funds to pay bills with.  Let Det go bankrupt and start over.

 

May 27, 2013 6:28PM
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So if they sell the art work and close the DIA. 

Will US TAXPAYERS get our money back??

Since we had a passed a mileage to keep the place open to begin with. 

May 28, 2013 5:01PM
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This will be like putting a flag pole on top of a condemned building.
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Wait a minute, I just voted to increase my property taxes (I do not live in Detroit) to help support the Detroit Institute of Arts.  To keep it as a jewel in Detroit.  Now they propose selling its assets to pay off City of Detroit debts?  I want my money back.  If I'm going to pay more taxes to pay off debt, I want the debt paid off to be the debt the city I live in owes.
May 28, 2013 3:31PM
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step this way to the greatest show on earth folks. the price of admission is small. just sell your soul for some food stamps and you too can live in your own version of detroit.
May 28, 2013 10:06AM
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Just watched a documentary on the fall of Detroit last night.  Made me frustrated to watch the stubbornness of people not willing to accept the inevitable change.  They would rather see their city crash and burn.  They already lost their jobs in the auto industry because they refused to acknowledge the inevitable.  Change. 

 

They sat on their porches saying how the houses around them have been either looted or burned by vandals.  They sat in their meetings saying how they weren't going to take the push and pull of the auto industry leaders.  When the truth is this... the world IS bigger than Detroit.  The auto industry leaders and people living in Detroit do have viable choices outside the city. The size of the city is the smallest in over 100 years.  YET, the people who do not see the outside world won't make the size of the city small enough for them to sustain.  They STILL want utility, buildings, sprawled out far and wide... too huge for the small group of people left to sustain.

 

I hate government interference.  BUT... in this case, whoever steps up to the plate and tries to take control with a tread of reason, they will be beaten down.  The life will be sucked outta them.  I say, let the city crash and burn.  Let the looters take control of the museum and loot the art.  Let the chandeliers be removed by looters.  THEN AND ONLY THEN will the people understand..... maybe.

May 24, 2013 1:54PM
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I'd rather sell Orr down the River without a paddle and some cement shoes on. What a moron. By the way... the City had this loser forced on them and the first thing he did was to retain his old Law Firm at $500,000 A MONTH to help him fix it's budget woes. I SEE CROOKED LAWYERS. I think everyone else does too. Go home, Orr... go pay your FOUR TAX LIENS on your home in MD you claimed you knew nothing about. Take Governor Shyster with you.
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