It was confirmed by the press office at Christie’s Auctioneers this week that Christie’s Appraisals Inc. has been called in and has entered into an agreement to appraise a portion of the City owned collection at the Detroit Institute of Art. In addition we will also assist and advise on how to realise value for the City while leaving the art in the City’s ownership.
Appraisal of organisations and individual collections is a regular part of our normal business and Christie’s was asked to assist due to our expertise in this area across all fine art categories and eras. We understand that a valuation of all the City’s assets (extending well beyond the art) is one of many steps that will be necessary for the legal system to reach a conclusion about the best long term solution for the citizens of Detroit.
At Christie’s, we are passionate about art and understand the importance of the contribution that institutions such as the Detroit Institute of Arts offer to the community and the world at large. We are proud of our long history of support to museums, including the DIA. We want to continue to focus our efforts on being a positive force in both the interests of the City of Detroit and its arts community, including working with our fellow arts professionals at the DIA and with the City to find alternatives to selling that would still provide the City with needed revenue.
The museum issued its own statement on Monday saying; The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) has learned that Christie’s, at the request of the Emergency Manager, plans to proceed with a valuation of the DIA collection, and we will be cooperating completely in that process. However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM’s focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit’s most important cultural institution.
In addition, recent moves in Oakland and Macomb counties to invalidate the tri-county millage if art is sold virtually ensure that any forced sale of art would precipitate the rapid demise of the DIA. Removing $23 million in annual operating funds – nearly 75% of the museum’s operating budget – and violating the trust of donors and supporters would cripple the museum, putting an additional financial burden on our already struggling city. The DIA has long been doing business without City of Detroit operating support; any move that compromises its financial stability will endanger the museum and further challenge the City’s future.
The DIA has been a beacon of culture for the Detroit area for well over a century. Founded in 1885, the museum was originally located on Jefferson Avenue, but, due to its rapidly expanding collection, moved to a larger site on Woodward Avenue in 1927. The new Beaux-Arts building, designed by Paul Cret, was immediately referred to as the “temple of art.” Two wings were added in the 1960s and 1970s, and a major renovation and expansion that began in 1999 was completed in 2007.
The DIA’s collection is among the top six in the United States. The museum covers 658,000 square feet that includes more than 100 galleries, a 1,150-seat auditorium, a 380-seat lecture/recital hall, an art reference library, and a state-of-the-art conservation services laboratory. The DIA’s collection is among the top six in the United States, comprising a multicultural and multinational survey of human creativity from prehistory through the 21st century. The foundation was laid by William Valentiner, a scholar and art historian from Berlin, who was director from 1924 to 1945 . His extensive contacts in Europe, along with support from generous patrons, enabled him to acquire many important works that established the framework of today’s collections. Among the notable acquisitions during his tenure are Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco cycle, which Rivera considered his most successful work, and Vincent van Gogh’s Self Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum collection.