Detroit’s Bankruptcy Breaks an Art Lover’s Heart.


I don’t normally post on current events.  I decided when I started this blog that I didn’t want to provide commentary on the state of affairs of our country or our world.  I wanted this blog to be cheerful and upbeat.  But this news makes me sad.  Detroit, Michigan has declared bankruptcy.  What was once one of the grandest cities in the nation, if not the world, with its majestic art deco architecture and auto industry money.  A city that has lately been much more known for its grand photo essays of urban decay.

But a bright spot in all that blight has always been the Detroit Institute of Arts.  If you live in one of the counties immediately surrounding Detroit, it is free to visit.  We visited there in September, 2012 and I wish I could have spent days wandering its galleries – I blogged about my visit here.  Quite simply put, this museum is amazing.  And not just when you compare it to its surroundings.  The DIA and its collections stand up as one of the finest art museums in the world.  The museum is housed in a 1927 Beaux Arts building that is just as spectacular as the art it contains.  The DIA received its first piece of art as a donation in 1883 and since that time, has grown to a collection of over 65,000 pieces.  The DIA is the second largest municipally owned museum in the world.  The art it contains is valued at an impressive $2.5 billion.

The DIA has works by Picasso, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse and numerous other painters.  It contains priceless artifacts from Egypt, the New World, tribal art, religious artifacts, blown glass, and woodworking.  There is a mural by Diego Rivera that spans all four walls of a huge room.  There are pieces of antique furniture, vases, baskets and masks.  The collections span the globe and all throughout human history.

Unfortunately, with Detroit’s bankruptcy, creditors have begun to eye the DIA’s collections – you can read about it here.  No one knows yet what will happen, but selling off the museum’s priceless works of arts to the highest bidder would be such a shame.  There would be no way to know what would happen to the pieces; if they would end up in a private collection locked away from public view.  Michigan’s Attorney General has issued a legal opinion arguing that the DIA’s art collection is held in a charitable trust for the people of Michigan, and therefore, the city of Detroit doesn’t own the art to sell it.  I hope that legal opinion is upheld in the courts, if it comes to that.  The DIA has been providing the public with access to art for over 130 years.  I hope that it can continue.

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7 thoughts on “Detroit’s Bankruptcy Breaks an Art Lover’s Heart.

  1. Been out of the loop; glad I could read about it in your post. Really is a sad situation – hoping the trust will remain intact and somehow money will be ‘found’ to ensure the security of the pieces. Art, yet another similar interest between us.

    • I hope they find some way to preserve this treasure for future generations. It really is a wonderful place. If I lived nearby there, I would certainly be there a lot! Art is one of those things that can bring people together – something we need more of these days.

      • Been to lots of other Art venues across the nation, but never been to Detroit. I agree, art brings people together and we need to encourage that. Here’s to preservation!

  2. I was born in Detroit and spent many a day at the DIA, and it just kills me to think that because of the problems of the politicians of Detroit, that vultures may attempt to loot this fine institution. I still reside in the Metropolitan area of Detroit and still take time to visit this great museum. The thought of it being in harm’s way gnaws at me. Thank you for your article.

    • My parents both grew up in MI, and my mom spent several years in Detroit. For me the DIA captures the essence of the grand city that Detroit once was. You are so lucky to be able to visit frequently. I would love to have the time to see all of their collections!

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