Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced Monday that he has contracted with Christie’s Appraisals, the New York-based international auction house, to appraise the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
While the move doesn’t signal a liquidation of artworks is imminent or inevitable, it is bound to explode fears that one of the country’s most significant publicly owned art museums is vulnerable to Detroit’s bankruptcy.
Orr said in a statement the decision to bring in Christie’s came at the request of creditors. He added the DIA appraisal is part of a citywide valuation of assets and is intended to aid the restructuring process.
“The city must know the current value of all its assets, including the city-owned collection at the DIA,” Orr’s statement reads. “There has never been, nor is there now, any plan to sell art. This valuation, as well as the valuation of other city assets, is an integral part of the restructuring process. It is a step the city must take to reach resolutions with its creditors and secure a viable, strong future for Detroit and its residents.”
Orr is working with creditors to ease the city’s $18 billion debt. Many of the nonsecured creditors have expressed concern that assets, most notably the art collection, are being shielded while they’re being asked to take as little as 10 cents on the dollar of what they’re owed.
The DIA addressed the issue on its Facebook page Monday: “We continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the attorney general has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM’s focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit’s most important cultural institution.”