Friday 19 July 2013

Detroit’s Creditors Eye Its Art Collection

As Detroit files for bankruptcy — the largest American city ever to do so — the fate of the impressive collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts  hangs in the balance. Unlike most art museums around the country, which are owned by nonprofit corporations that hold a collection in trust for citizens, the institute is owned by Detroit, as is much of its collection — which includes gems by artists llike Bruegel, Caravaggio, Rembrandt and van Gogh. It is considered among the top 10 encyclopedic museums in the country. Experts have speculated that the institute’s works could bring more than $2 billion if sold.
About a month ago, the institute’s officials were contacted by Christie’s auction house, which asked for an inventory of works and asked if appraisers could visit to assess the collection. It is unclear whether such a visit took place and whether it was creditors or someone else who enlisted Christie’s to begin an appraisal. (Mr. Nowling said that the emergency manager’s office did not do so, and Christie’s declined to comment.) But as Detroit’s financial fate comes before a federal bankruptcy judge, it is clear that the desire of creditors to determine the collection’s worth will not go away. 
This puts a new face on the Cunoesque statements of the value of US museums as long-term curatorial repositories safeguarding the world's cultural heritage. In the USA as much as any other country, the fate and safeguarding of cultural property is entirely dependent on external political and economic factors. Detroit has been unable to assure the future of this art, and as the economic meltdown continues to worsen, so will the position of art rapaciously acquired and held even in other American institutions. 

Source: Randy Kennedy, Monica Davey, "Detroit’s Creditors Eye Its Art Collection", New York Times 19th July 2013.


Cultural Property Observer said...

You should be happy to know US collectors and coin dealers stand ready to help bankrupt Greece to get top dollar for the coins in the Athens numismatic cabinet. The coins themselves will go to good homes and will help spread Greek culture further around the world.

Paul Barford said...

and just what "culture" do you suggest the US can share with the world in return? Big Mac and Honey Boo Boo? Thanks.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Certainly a lot of popular culture in the form of music etc. Most Greeks (especially the younger generation) are probably more interested in that than some old coins other old stuff in Greece's undervisited museums. (Read Sharon Waxman in "Loot" for that one). The Greek Government should actually be happy American collectors care.

Paul Barford said...

The music is entertainment, surely. Honey Boo Boo is "culture" in the eyes of educated Americans like yourself, really? No, seriously, what of MATERIAL culture coming from a time depth can you share with people across the globe? What do Americans themselves think this is?

Tell me, how many young people, young black people for example, in Detroit visited the old paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts ? Will many of them be joining hands in a human chain to 'protect our art' do you think? I am sure when they do, we'll read all about it in Cultural property Observer.

kyri said...

greeks are taught from a very young age in schools to appreciate the history and culture of ancient greece and im sure that proportionally more greeks "care" about their culture than any other nation in the world cares about theirs,especially young people. thats a bold statement but i stand by it.for other nations learning about ancient battles like plataea ect is a side show that very few enlightened people bother with but for greeks it is these battles from 5th cen bc right up to oxi day in 1940 that made them what they are.its in their makeup,its in their blood.

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