The Detroit Institute of Arts is making some serious headway in raising the $100 million it has promised in what is termed the “grand bargain fund”, an $816 million trust with creditors intended to reduce Detroit pension cuts and thereby save the treasures at the museum. In a matter of just weeks, they are already well over a third of the way there.
Last week, the big three automakers pledged $26 million, and today we learn that an additional $13 million is on the way from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust to save the artworks from the auction block. A contribution from Blue Cross Blue Shield is also rumored to be in the works.
The museum currently holds in trust 60,000 pieces of artwork, with a little over 1,700 on display. This is not unusual, as most museums act as archives who rotate and lend art for exhibits. Art museums also accept donated pieces that may, or may not, appreciate in value.
Creditors have been hollering for an opportunity to independently appraise the collection for nearly a year. They believe the Christies estimate of between $454 and $867 million is too low. Museum officials told bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes last month that creditors are engaged in a “yard-sale-like” mentality.
Late last April, the Diego Rivera murals were designated as a National Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior — a move that does not fully protect the artworks from creditors, but sends a strong signal and offers some level of federal assistance.
Automakers, the corporate stakeholders of the Motor City, understand that compromising the DIA treasures would be to sell Detroit’s cultural seed corn. It seems that Judge Rhodes is on the same page.
The August 14th deadline set for this to be settled — conveniently falls in the heart of election season for the state.