Thursday, September 12, 2013
Donn Zaretsky does a great point-by-point analysis of Smith's inflated and fictional account, highlighting Smith's gluttunous use of hyperbole. Normally I would dismiss Smith's off-the-cuff comments given that on occasion she does hit the nail on the head. But since the ongoing DIA situation is of key public concern with major consequences, many readers who respect Smith's position as a Times writer will allocate significant truth and weight to her unfounded allegations, then turn around and disseminate these same ridiculous arguments.
I don't think I would be too crazy to say that some of Smith's comments border on being unethical and severely lacking in fact-checking skills, to the extent that I would encourage readers to contact the Times' public editor, Margaret Sullivan, and ask her to take a look into Smith's lack of journalistic integrity.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
Sacrificing Detroit’s art would be an urban planning mistake of the first order that would unjustly enrich creditors. It doesn’t have to happen. Michigan can, and should, take the legal steps necessary to prevent this from happening.Donn Zaretsky also pointed out Levitin's three main reasons,
1. If Detroit is to be rebuilt, it needs a cultural base, not just an economic base.
2. It would also be wrong legally. Bankruptcy law has no provision that requires cities to sell their assets to satisfy creditors.
3. Detroit’s creditors may complain that it is unfair for the city to hold on to a valuable asset while not paying them in full. The truth, though, is that liquidating the art collection would represent a giant windfall for creditors. No creditor ever relied on being able to seize the DIA collection when extending credit to the city.
I have a couple of questions for Professor Levitin.
One, we must assume Detroit can be rebuilt, and by this I mean rebuilt to the extent that it can support an institution the size of the DIA. Additionally, would it even make sense to have burned down buildings, a decreased police and fire department force, and potholes the size of moon craters for the sake of having cultural classics?
Two, why would liquidating part--or all--of the DIA's collection represent "a giant windfall for creditors"? What if you owe me $10 and you allege you are broke, but then you find a $5 bill in your pocket that you "didn't know" you had. Does that mean I would be getting a "windfall" if you paid me half of what you owe me? What if you find a $20, would it be so wrong to walk down to the corner store and get two $10s, one for you and one for me?
Monday, August 19, 2013
Christie’s will only appraise works bought directly by the city that are unencumbered by donated funds or other covenants that cloud clear legal title, said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr. The appraisal will unfold in phases. Officials will start with the art on view before evaluating art in storage with an estimated market value of $50,000 or more and, finally, art in storage presumed to be worth less than $50,000.Final results are due in October or November. The city is paying Christie’s a $200,000 fee. However, it appears that if there is a sale, it won't necessarily be made through Christie's.
More via The Detroit Free Press.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
A few art blogs are rallying around the web-o-sphere to bring attention to Detroit's financial plight and the potential deaccessioning of DIA's art collection. Because, you know, it's not like Detroit's been in the news lately.
I'm a bit hurt. Why wasn't The Deaccessioning Blog invited? (wink, wink...)
Sunday, August 11, 2013
The census given in the Times' print version is, unsurprisingly, that the DIA should not sell of its art works to pay for Detroit's financial woes. What's unfortunate, and lackluster, about the Times' print survey is that it includes five responses, only one of which is from Michigan and four of the five are against any kind of sale.
The online survey includes two other responses, one of which makes a similar argument I have made before that art "education" is more than access to high-priced "masterpieces." Angela Sorby, from Milwaukee, writes,
Arts education does not depend on expensive paintings; it depends on (relatively cheap) books, supplies and teachers. I think Detroit should sell its collection and pay off its debt. But the city should also set money aside to cultivate the city’s children — its future Caravaggios — whose deep reserves of talent might otherwise disappear, unheard and unseen.Philosophy professor, Felicia Ackerman, adds some sobering thoughts,
Those who consider art essential to civilization should realize that it is even more essential for a civilized society not to abandon its most vulnerable members, let alone break its promise of pensions to those who have invested their working lives in public service.Frank Robinson, who penned the original letter to the editor, responds to Ackerman,
Nevertheless, as Ms. Ackerman eloquently points out, the practical, political and moral question remains for Detroit and, to a lesser degree, for other museums: the pensions of civil servants, as well as basic municipal services, will be cut without some infusion of cash, and the institute’s paintings are significant assets.Robinson's response contains the key word for me in this dilemma: practical. I know it's politically incorrect to believe that there are practical solutions to many dire situations, primarily financial, because somehow, and from somewhere, money will magically appear and absolve any person or entity from financial ruin.
I would like to ask the editors of the Times if there were any responses submitted by Detroiters, and if so, why weren't they included? Are we really to believe that roughly 80% of the population is against any kind of deaccessioning or, shall we say, agrees with New York's "cultural elite"?
Friday, August 9, 2013
So let me get this straight: Detroit is bankrupt and has no money, yet it can conveniently come up with $200,000 for a "procedural" [art] appraisal? This has got to be one of the biggest lessons in delusional thinking of behalf of a municipality.Siebold doesn't just want the artwork sold (he thinks it's a "good start"), he thinks everything must go.
From there it's just a matter of going down the line, from the city held airport to the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, real estate and parking garages. It doesn't matter how old or nostalgic the artwork or any other asset is. It all has to go!
The situation in Detroit and Chicago is quite ugly indeed, but the solution starts with eliminating wasteful spending with money that's not available, liquidating assets, dissolving the unions, and getting out of an entitlement way of thinking that a bailout is the solution.Luckily, and hopefully no rain-out, I get to watch the Detroit Tigers take on the Yankees tonight before Siebold sells them to the Russians.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Here's the Detroit Institute of Art's statement:
The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has learned that Christie’s, at the request of the Emergency Manager, plans to proceed with a valuation of the DIA collection, and we will be cooperating completely in that process. However, 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.For some reason I would not read much into this. This may be a well-planned move to try to get the Obama administration involved (read: federal bailout).
In addition, recent moves in Oakland and Macomb counties to invalidate the tri-county millage if art is sold virtually ensure that any forced sale of art would precipitate the rapid demise of the DIA. Removing $23 million in annual operating funds – nearly 75% of the museum’s operating budget – and violating the trust of donors and supporters would cripple the museum, putting an additional financial burden on our already struggling city. The DIA has long been doing business without City of Detroit operating support; any move that compromises its financial stability will endanger the museum and further challenge the City’s future.
Let's see what the Deaccessioning Police has to say.
Friday, August 2, 2013
Anybody who doesn't want Detroit to sell its art must be prepared to go up against arguments like these. What's more, the counterarguments will have to persuade locals who know how it feels to call the cops and get a busy signal. In my experience, art lovers aren't accustomed to making that kind of argument, any more than they're accustomed to living in a city without streetlights.To the point, and very true. No offense, but I wonder how long Cobble Hillers or West Villagers (where the baby strollers roam) would argue for keeping artwork when there are no cops to keep Bed-Stuyers away or when streets have potholes the size of moon craters.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
After two months of hectic coverage, I call upon journalists to resist the temptation to jump to disaster scenarios or to make the D.I.A.’s singular and highly complicated situation part of a broader story about the structural challenges faced by museums in general.Graham W. J. Beal, Director, Detroit Institue of Art, in his letter to the NY Times.
Monday, July 29, 2013
The museum paid more than $1.8 million for its first O’Keeffe. It will go on exhibit in time for Labor Day Weekend, in a small, second-floor gallery.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Mr. Schjeldahl claims to now have a "sounder grasp" of the issues involved. No offense to Mr. Schjeldahl, but these issues don't seem that complex to me. Mr. Schjeldahl claims that selling the art would not bring "dollar-for-dollar" relief to Detroit's pensioners, but that was evident from the start. He also claims sentimentality when he gives a vivid description--from his friend--of countless individuals who no longer would be able to view their favorite artworks; presumably individuals in no need of an ambulance, police car or fire truck.
I respect a person's decision to switch sides; I do it all the time. What's of import, however, are the reasons for the flip-flopping or, rather, the sound reasons. Mr. Schjeldahl argument that selling of DIA's collection would "stagger even today's inflated [art] market" serves only to uphold my initial argument that those arguing, sentimentally, against the sale of the artworks are "those who read the New Yorker and those who blog about art simply to create cultural capital." In other words, those that have an investment in the so-called art market and its ideologies.
I'm friends with Hrag Vartanian, who I believe accused Mr. Schjeldahl of suggesting that Greece sell the Parthenon to pay its crippling national debt. Apples to oranges? Perhaps. But more interestingly it's how "culture" is pre-defined as "Culture." Where is the cultural-elite's cry when a sports team decamps from one city to a more profitable metropolis (see the Los Angeles Raiders and the St. Louis Rams, to name only two)? What aggravates me most about this position is that it completely obliterates Detroit's existing culture(s). It's as if Detroit would be left cultureless should the DIA sell off its collection. In the words of theorist, Raymond Williams, culture is ordinary.
Lastly, I'm getting very tired of hearing cultural elites
Thursday, July 25, 2013
In Schjeldahl's view, art-is-art, or better yet, the Detroit Institute of Art's collection is plop art--art whose meaning remains the same regardless of context.
At any rate, they are hardly altered by inhabiting one building rather than another. The relationship of art to the institutions that house and display it is a marriage of convenience, with self-interest on both sides, and not an ineluctable romance.In other words the DIA collection isn't site-specific art. We're not talking about the Spiral Jetty or Thomas Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument. In fact, Hirschhorn's Gramsci Monument is a perfect example of why the DIA should sell its collection: there's a difference between having access to art making and culture and having an art collection that attracts tourists (if that) yet ignores the local citizenry.
Hirschhorn's monument takes place on the grounds of Forest Houses, a New York City Housing Authority development in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. Here's an edited description of the project via The DIA Art Foundation website.
Constructed by residents of Forest Houses, the artwork takes the form of an outdoor structure comprised of numerous pavilions. Gramsci Monument will offer a daily program of lectures by philosopher Marcus Steinweg, a children's workshop run by artist Lex Brown, a radio station, happy hour, and a daily newspaper. Weekly programs include a play titled Gramsci Theater, Gramsci Seminars led by international scholars, Poetry Lectures and Workshops led by poets and writers, Art Workshops led by Hirschhorn, open microphone events coordinated by the community, and field trips organized by the project’s “ambassador[.]”Similar to Hirschhorn's project, I believe that what the city of Detroit needs is hands-on culture-making; not hand wringing. No, not every person should have the chance to see art or to live down the street from it. Rather, they should have the chance to create their own version of art and culture and not one dictated by those who read the New Yorker or those who blog about art simply to create cultural capital.
However, I do part ways with Schjeldahl in his belief that museums bestow a sense of identity and self-esteem "even on people who never visit them." In this regard, Schjeldahl continues to romanticize and idealize the so-called "power" of art institutions while perpetuating archaic and pernicious ideologies of Western culture.
In the end, not everyone "gets"museum art, art criticism or art history. As Mike Kelley once said, you can't foist art on people. If the people of Detroit don't care about art, don't want access to it, don't want to live down the street from it, or simply don't get it, then what's the loss?
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
Don’t worry, as usual there will be people making money in Detroit. It just won’t be the people who actually live there…So, there you have it. The Detroit Institute of Art's art collection may not end up paying for lights, police cars or pensions. It may, as sick as this may sound, end up lining the pockets of some firms that represent some of the corporations that helped to cause Detroit's mess. Who said Biglaw was dead?
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Before I opine, my immediate reaction would be "hell no." The last thing we need in this country is to incentivize irresponsible spending by municipalities all while guaranteeing that although local residents of a bankrupt city may not have streetlights, ambulances, and police cars they'll have pensions and access to Jackson Pollock's drip paintings.
One aspect I have been thinking about regarding Detroit's bankruptcy (regardless of how we spin it, let's call it what it is, it's a bankruptcy), is that it does call for us to reconfigure and redefine our notion of culture and, in relation to it, our definition of "value." What kind of culture do we value in this day and age? Does a contemporary city really need a museum and art collection that pretty much reiterates and replicates what other major museums in the U.S. already do? Does Detroit's mess not call for us to rethink what a city actually needs after the 2008 economic apocalypse? Are there not other forms of culture that a city like Detroit could use and, more importantly, may already have? If so, could these forms of culture not be funded--or partially funded--with a sale of the DIA collection?
Tied to this question is the thought of
More on this as I parcel out my thoughts.
In case you haven't read it yet, here's NY Times journalist Randy Kennedy's thoughts on Detroit.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Having just returned from a short stint in Detroit, I can honestly say that there are no words to describe the landscape of the city and of the people. Resilience or resignation? That's the question a friend of mine asked regarding the people of Detroit. I think it's both (or at least it's hard to tell). It's similar to being a Chicago Cubs fan on the one hand or being a sports writer and being assigned to cover the NY Mets. Resilience or resignation?
I loved my stay in Detroit, and I loved the people I met while I was there. I was given a "tour" of homes that were purchased for $100 and $500; both needing repairs but nonetheless, what does $500 get you in New York city, or any other city in the US? These homes were next to abandoned and empty lots; adjacent to armatures of homes charred to a crisp.
Detroit is decimated. As I drove around the city I could not help but feel that I was in the TV show, The Walking Dead. The city looked empty; abandoned. Streets need repair. I noticed one, yes, one police car the three days I was there (and that police car was in front of Comerica Park the night that the Detroit Tigers played the Texas Rangers).
A current question on the minds of artists, curators, and museums concerns the role that art and public museums play in relation to the public. Relating to the public generally means providing a wide array of culture and making it affordable and accessible. There comes a time, however, when an institution must reassess--on its own--its own duty to the city that it inhabits. It calls for us to reassess our notion of art and of culture. Where are our artists in this time of need?
Sunday, July 14, 2013
UPDATE: July 15, 2013
Donn Zaretsky wonders what would happen if the sales proceeds were used for something other than new art acquisitions.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
But hey, they do have the best hitter in baseball.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Friday, June 14, 2013
"Obviously with $15-17 billion in long term debt and no way to pay it off, Detroiters are delusional if they don’t think they are going to face painful sacrifices. This is the day of reckoning for a region that has failed in its basic duties."Ouch. Urban analyst, Aaron Renn, has more here.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
A state Senate committee moved quickly today to approve a bill that would protect the art collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts specifically, and Michigan museums in general, from liquidation in the event of a municipal bankruptcy proceeding. The bill was introduced Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, and approved on a 5-0 vote today by the General Operations Committee.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
|La Robe de la Mariée (The Wedding Dress)|
Here's your chance to chime in, although I'm tempted to think that you have to be a resident of the state of Georgia in order for your two-cents to have any value.
Regardless, Lynn Boland, Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, wants to know what you think about her proposal to deaccession four of five paintings by Bernard Smol (French, 1897–1969), mainly because there hasn't been much interest in his works since, let's say, approximately 1960.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Due to limited storage space and evolving collecting philosophy, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia staff has decided to “deaccession,” or remove from its collection, all but one of Smol’s works. Visitors will be able to vote on which one they would like the museum to keep, and curatorial staff will take those votes into consideration.