The Christie’s appraisal shows that its art would fetch a relatively small amount, said Michael Bennett, who teaches intellectual property law at Northeastern University in Boston and is a board member at an art gallery there. Bennett attended the Dec. 3 hearing in Detroit where U.S. Bankruptcy JudgeSteven Rhodes ruled the city eligible for bankruptcy.

“If the city were to sell off the masters, liquidate its collection, it would send a signal to the world it was cashing in on its cultural cachet,” Bennett said in a phone interview. “Its presence on the world stage would be diminished. It would cease to be among the upper echelon of world cities with respect to art.”

“Detroit needs the art now more than ever to comfort its citizens.”