Spotlight falls on artworks in Detroit’s search for sellable assets


As Detroit goes down what could be a painful path to resolve its debts, attention has turned to the city assets that might be sold off to raise much-needed funds, including the valuable paintings and other objects that are part of the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Founded in 1885, the DIA’s collection includes an array of renowned works, including Bruegel’s The Wedding Dance and Caravaggio’s The Conversion of the Magdalen.

Owned by the city, questions have been raised about the possiblity of selling some of its holdings to help fund Detroit. Although the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, yesterday stressed that right now nothing was for sale, some have suggested that works from the collection should be sold to help city finances.

Other assets that might be sold off are the city zoo and the Belle Isle park.

But the director of the DIA, Graham Beal, said he doubted if the city could sell works from the art collection. He cited a recent opinion from the Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, in which he said that the collection is “held by the City of Detroit in charitable trust for the people of Michigan, and no piece in the collection may thus be sold, conveyed, or transferred to satisfy city debts or obligation.”