Friday, August 30, 2013

We Don't Need No Stinkin' AAMD Police

Donn Zaretsky reports that we have another art lover calling for the Deaccessioning Police to back off.

This is one petition I'll gladly sign. Now, who could we get fired? Lee Rosenbaum?

Monday, August 26, 2013

The DIA and Its Collection Are Now Genuine Celebrity Figures

My good friend, Michael Bennett, on why art matters to Detroit, and why Detroit should use this opportunity--it's 15 minutes of fame--to garner support for the DIA and its collection.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Law Prof: Selling DIA's Art Collection "a huge mistake."

Georgetown Law professor and bankruptcy expert, Adam Levitin, thinks selling the Detroit Institute of Art's collection to pay creditors is wrong legally and culturally.
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

What's the Value of Detroit Institute of Arts' Collection?

We'll soon find out.
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

Deaccessioning Police plans 'Day for Detroit'

Can blogs wear Birkenstocks?

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

Should Detroit Deaccession? Let's Load the Dice

The NY Times Sunday Dialogue takes a few reader "calls" on the issues of Detroit's bankruptcy and the potential deaccessioning of part of the Detroit Institute of Art's collection.

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

Detroit, "It all has to go!"

Steve Siebold, self-described as "author and expert in the field of critical thinking and mental toughness training," gives Detroit a little boot camp training.
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!
And so do unions and the sense of entitlement to a federal bailout, says Siebold. 
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

Breaking: Confirmed, Christie's Hired to Appraise DIA Collection for Potential Sell-Off

Confirmed today. Kevyn Orr had contracted Christie's to appraise the DIA's collection.

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.

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.
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).

Let's see what the Deaccessioning Police has to say.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Arguments Against Deaccessioning Should Come from Detroit's Leaders

The Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout articulates what I've argued before; the arguments against selling off the DIA's art collection should come from Detroiters, not elitist Northeasterners.
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.


"We don't need Monet - we need money."

Politically, there may be no winning formula, with strong feelings on both sides of the argument.
The Chicago Tribune has an update.