Detroit Institute of the Arts: What’s it Worth?

by holditnow

Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals 1932-33

Diego Rivera Detroit Industry Murals 1932-33

Detroit has definitely seen some better days. The once great city is currently suffering under a paralyzing debt of somewhere in the ballpark of  $20 billion dollars. Drastic measures are being considered to stave off their financial hemorrhaging: one of them being; selling off their great collection of artworks. As an art lover and lover of museums, this news was very dismaying for me. If this collection were to go under the gavel, most of it would end up in the hands of private collectors scattered to the wind. Public institutions don’t have the resources to compete with the Eli Broads of the world. Great artworks are one thing, but great collections are another, and Detroit has a great collection. Fearing the worse and before it was too late; we called some friends, packed up the car and headed for the border.

Henry Fuseli The Nightmare 1781 estimated 3-4 million

Henry Fuseli The Nightmare 1781 estimated 3-4 million

The signs of Detroit’s financial situation were immediately apparent  once we crossed the river, but among the abandoned and boarded up buildings sits a white marble jewel. The Detroit Institute of the Arts was never on my museum radar until this potential crisis, but that was a huge oversight on my part.  The first thing you are struck by is the building itself, with its size and scope. The collection within it houses roughly 66 000 precious objects. What we found around every corner were breathtaking surprises and bonafide masterpieces. Our first big surprise was Henry Fuseli’s Nightmare. Fuseli is a minor player in the history of art but has managed to create one of its most arresting images.  It is tragically a fitting allegory for Detroit’s current woes. Debt sits on her chest like a malevolent spirit producing unrest.

Vincent Van Gogh Portrait of Postman Roulin 1888 estimated 80-120 million

Vincent Van Gogh Portrait of Postman Roulin 1888 estimated 80-120 million

The rumour of the potential sale of the Institute’s collection has furthered been fueled by an appraisal (commissioned by the D.I.A.)  of its holdings by  Artvest: an art investment firm. Artvest values the total collection at roughly 4.6 billion dollars, but warns that if an actual sale were to take place it may garner only a quarter of its projected worth. Values are based on current art market trends and comparable auction prices. The whole report can be found here. The high prices achieved by the sale of art is a hot button issue for many individuals. I personally believe some things on this earth should be valuable. We need to acknowledge the accomplishments and historical contributions of the makers and innovators among us. Genius is precious and should be rewarded. Overall, Art is worth way more than money, but for the time being the market is one way( a flawed way) to help gauge its worth. Bruegel’s Wedding Dance topped the list of Detroit’s top earners with a potential fetching price of $200 million. Van Gogh was next followed by Picasso.

James Whistler Nocturne in Black and Gold, The Falling Rocket   1875 estimated 25-45 million

James Whistler Nocturne in Black and Gold, The Falling Rocket 1875 estimated 25-45 million

The pleasure of a truly splendid collection can be found in its range and its depth. Detroit is a spoil of riches for any museum goer, starting with the Diego Rivera murals, along with the Rembrandts, Caravaggios, Fra Angelicos and the list just goes on. Here is a small smattering of what Detroit has to offer:

Artemisia Gentileschi Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes 1625 estimated 20-25 million

Artemisia Gentileschi Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes 1625 estimated 20-25 million

Andy Warhol Self Portrait 1967 estimated 20-25 million

Andy Warhol Self Portrait 1967 estimated 20-25 million

Henri Matisse The Window 1916 estimated NA

Henri Matisse The Window 1916 estimated NA

Mark Rothko Orange Brown     1963 estimated 30-40 million

Mark Rothko Orange Brown 1963 estimated 30-40 million

John Singer Sargent Madame Paul Poirson 1885 estimated 1.5-2.5 million

John Singer Sargent Madame Paul Poirson 1885 estimated 1.5-2.5 million

Odilion Redon Evocation of Butterflies 1912 estimated NA

Odilion Redon Evocation of Butterflies 1912 estimated NA

Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios (Defiant) 1993 estimated NA

Doris Salcedo Atrabiliarios (Defiant) 1993 estimated NA

The idea of selling off this wonderful collection is heart breaking. Hopefully the governor of Michigan will follow through with his pledge and keep supporting the museum. The Detroit Institute of the Arts is worth far more than the 4.6 billion price tag it has been allotted. Do yourself a favour and experience one of the great cultural institutions in North America; it’s worth the trip.

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