Judge Calls for a "Grand Bargain" to Save Detroit's Art

  • December 29, 2013 12:43

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Madonna and Child, Giovanni Bellini, 1508, oil on panel. Appraised at $4-10 million by Christie's.
Detroit Institute of Arts

Federal judge Gerald Rosen has a plan for Detroit. In charge of the city's bankruptcy proceedings, Rosen sees the answer to saving both retirees' pensions and the renowned collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts as a fundraising effort. Philanthropists, foundations, and private donors at all levels would fund a "grand bargain" to the tune of $500 million.

The idea is to protect the DIA's art from city control, and the possibility of being sold to alleviate Detroit's $18 billion debt. Yet, the art would then be controlled by an independent agency, or foundation, created by the fundraising effort. The city would pay retirees' pensions through this dontated money as opposed to selling off city-owned masterpieces in the DIA's collection to raise funds.

Critics question whether $500 million would make enough difference to close the official pension fund gap. Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has said the shortfall is as much as seven times that amount. The threat of pension cuts and selling art could still stand after the "grand bargain." 

Christie's recently appraised city-owned art in the DIA at more than $850 million.

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