DIA artwork for sale? Auction house to appraise value

DIAEmergency Manager Kevyn Orr is expected to announce today that he has hired Christie’s auction house to appraise the value of the treasured collection at the Detroit Institute for the Arts.

The move was anticipated as Detroit looks for ways to satisfy creditors in the city’s bankruptcy.

The New York-based auction house also plans to give the DIA advice on making money from the art without selling it.

Christie’s was perusing the vast collection in early June, prompting fears of a fire sale. But Orr’s office at the time said it had not been in touch with Christie’s about an appraisal.

Artistic and philanthropic groups have joined state officials in demanding that the DIA’s collection be protected from bankruptcy. But that choice ultimately belongs to a bankruptcy judge, Orr contends.

In the past, Orr has said the appraisal is necessary because bondholders and their insurers will inquire about the artwork.

The Free Press estimates the that value of the collection is in the billions of dollars. Detroit’s debt exceeds $12 billion.

The DIA’s collection features several works by Vincent van Gogh, including a self portrait, Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker,” paintings by Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, ancient sculptures, plus enormous murals of Detroit by Diego Rivera.

Much of the collection has been gifted over the years by local families, including the Ford family.

The museum is funded by a regional tax, and a nonprofit operates the museum.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.