Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 5, 2013

Report: Detroit-bought art worth as much as $870M

DETROIT (AP) — City-bought works at the Detroit Institute of Arts have an estimated value roughly between $450 million and $870 million, according to an appraisal conducted by New York auction house Christie’s.

Christie’s disclosed the estimate in a release on Wednesday announcing it submitted a preliminary report to Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr. The auction house says the included art represents about 2,780 works, or 5 percent of the museum’s 66,000-piece collection.

The city paid the auction house $200,000 to appraise the collection. A judge Tuesday ruled Detroit is eligible to fix its finances in bankruptcy, and some creditors seek a role in determining whether art could be used to raise money.

The auction house said later this month it will release a report recommending five alternatives to selling the art that could generate value. Orr said Tuesday he doesn’t know if the city will try to sell art or come up with another way to raise money off art, which he said cannot solve the city’s pension problems.

Christie’s said the values provided are not auction estimates, which are price ranges auction house affix to a work at the point of sale “to attract maximum bidding interest.” Fair market values, it said, represents the price at which a piece of art would change hands between a buyer and seller in a relevant marketplace.

The idea of selling the art provokes strong reactions. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has said that city-owned DIA pieces can’t be sold and the artwork is held in charitable trust for Michigan residents, but workers and retirees have countered that it shouldn’t be spared at the expense of their pensions.

“Why are just the city workers taking cuts?” said Charles Rittenhouse, 57, a mechanic on the city’s garbage trucks. “They should do cuts across the board. I have no problem with them selling some of the art. I can’t see selling all of it. What is a piece of art compared to me feeding my family? To my well-being? And just think about the older people. A lot of us are broken down from our jobs.”

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