DIA Board meets amid talk of possible art sale under Detroit bankruptcy

DIA Board of Directors meets to discuss what could happen if creditors go after art collection

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - Vincent Van Gogh's self portrait adorns the wall at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The city owns the world-renowned painting.

It also owns others from the likes of Edgar Degas and Paul Cezanne. The paintings are Detroit's genuine crown jewels, purchased a century ago when the city was turning into the great city it became.

However, the DIA Board of Directors walked out of an update board meeting Monday morning realizing it is the world turned upside down -- for real. The institute management is discussing possible ways of keeping the collection away from the Chapter 9 bankruptcy wolves.

Read more: Will art be sold to pay off Detroit's debt?

"It's just a real serious matter and the board wants to protect the assets, and it's a real serious matter for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan," said DIA board member Thomas Guastello.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr raised the issue last week as a wakeup call for not only the city but the entire region. If a Chapter 9 comes, creditors will be looking for cash from the city. Orr says the creditors will look behind the DIA walls.

City Council President Charles Pugh said Monday that though some of the collection is protected, the city does own a sizeable chunk of the DIA art. He shudders to think what could happen.

"It has to be done so that we know the value of the things we really do own," said Pugh. "But I hope once we have that discussion ... it's like selling your kids."

The question now is if there is anything that really can be done. The state legislature is looking at passing a law that would try to prevent a sale. However, legally that may not hold up.

It's an incentive for the region to get serious about figuring out a way to avoid Chapter 9.

"It would be a shame to lose an asset like this. This would be irreplaceable," said Guastello.

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