As the city of Detroit enters bankruptcy, the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts may be under threat. Unlike most art museums in the US, which are owned by non-profit entities holding art collections in trust for citizens, the Institute is owned by Detroit, as is much of its collection and many of the city's creditors have said that the artworks must be considered a saleable asset.
A spokesperson for the state-appointed emergency managers appointed to deal with Detroit's debts, which could amount to more than $18 billion, says”we haven't proposed selling any asset, but we haven't taken any asset off the table. We can't.”
Michigan's Attorney-General responded with an opinion saying the artworks – under the state's trust law – “were held in trust for the public” and could be sold only for the purpose of acquiring additional art, not for paying municipal debt. However, under federal bankruptcy proceedings it is unclear what force his opinion would have, all of which appears to point to a lengthy dispute between the city and its army of creditors.
Image: Detroit Institute Arts