Detroit, Get Your Hands Off My Art!


When I go to a museum, I rarely think about the monetary value of the countless famous paintings, sculptures, and artifacts that are housed within its walls.  When I stand in utter amazement in front of a Van Gogh, the last thought that crosses my mind is “I wonder what this might bring in at auction?”  I am sure there are some people – well art appraisers and auctioneers that do consider art as a commodity but it’s kind of their job to look at things that way.

DIA Next Victim of Detroit Bankruptcy

Well in light of Detroit’s recent bankruptcy (with debt exceeding $18 billion), city officials and creditors have started looking at the Detroit Institute of Arts (one of the nations largest and most impressive art collections) in a new light…as one of the city’s last, potentially substantial, assets.  This wouldn’t be the first time in history a city used its cultural riches for economic gain – to either fund large-scale public projects (i.e. the Colisseum in Rome) or take as a spoil of war to add to a kingdom’s riches (pretty much every war in history).

What makes this particularly tragic is the philosophical and moral question it raises as to the importance and intangible value of art within our society.  If a city can strip itself of all its “assets” in order to repay it’s debt, then what will be left?  True that much, if not most, of the artwork at DIA has swapped hands with countless collectors, institutions, and patrons of the arts over the years, but having a cultural landmark like the DIA is arguably vital for the community, spirit, and cultural thriving of the city.

(Check out the full article on the NY Times)

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