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  • Fate of Detroit’s Art Hangs in the Balance

    The New York Times - 12/03/2013

    Michael G. Bennett, an associate professor of law at Northeastern University School of Law, who was in the courtroom during the ruling, said, “Judge Rhodes seemed to be saying something that amounted to a defense of the collection.”

    A price tag on at least some of the pieces in the collection is expected soon. The city’s emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, hired the auction house Christie’s to appraise hundreds of selected pieces from the institute, and those estimated values are expected to be made public as part of the bankruptcy case by mid-December.

    In a talk with The Free Press’s editorial board after Tuesday’s ruling, Mr. Orr said that in “preliminary discussions” with Christie’s, it appeared that the market value of some of the best pieces in the collection would be less than $2 billion — a figure widely cited as a low estimate of the collection’s value — and that the appraisal could come in at less than $1 billion.

    “We will try to get some value from the art in some fashion,” he told the board, but he said that did not mean that there was any plan at present to sell any art at auction. (Other possibilities for generating money from the art could include using it as collateral for loans or charging to lend pieces out, although the museum has had little success in doing that in the past.) Mr. Orr, in his presentation to the newspaper, added, referring to the art: “Let’s be clear. That’s a city asset.”

    Mr. Orr has said publicly that museum officials must “save themselves” by finding a way to contribute money, possibly as much as $500 million, toward the city’s debt relief.

    Mr. Bennett, who has argued publicly against the sale of art, added that the ruling seemed to say that “even if sales from the institute generated a lot of money — let’s say $900 million or even $1 billion — it’s still not going to solve the city’s problem in any fundamental way, and it could end up contributing to more problems down the road.”


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