If you haven’t heard by now, the idea of deaccessioning the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts in order to pay off the city’s $15 billion debt was floated as a possibility by Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s Emergency Manager in charge of pulling the city out of its massive financial woes. The question is whether DIA’s collection is part of Detroit’s assets and can be sold off to creditors or, as DIA has argued in a statement, that the art works are part of the “public trust” and not for sale. A spokesman for Mr. Orr has said that there is “no interest in selling art,” but even the suggestion of a sale has sparked outrage. Today, the president of the College Art Association released a statement–addressed directly to Mr. Orr–opposing the possible deaccessioning.
The open letter reads, in part:
The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the greatest art museums in the country that represents the finest creative achievements throughout the history of the world. The DIA is not only a great treasure but one of the very few places in Detroit where all people can enjoy, contemplate and study art and its many related concepts. The DIA has developed itself as a public educational institution and has been a leader in the profession at engaging with all segments of the community.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder told the Detroit Free Press, quite ominously, “I’m letting Kevyn do his job as a practical matter.” Detroit is in danger of filing Chapter 9 bankruptcy, though if that happens, the city cannot be forced by its creditors to liquidate its assets. (An emergency manager has the power to privatize city services and sell assets. A decent overview can be read here.)
Detroit mayor Dave Bing also told the Free Press, “From a personal standpoint, I’m hopeful we don’t have to touch the art over at the DIA.”
The DIA collection is likely worth several billion dollars and includes Diego Rivera’s iconic assembly line mural and Rodin’s The Thinker, among many other masterworks.
Read the CAA’s letter in full here.