Detroit art sale could bring less than half collection's value -expert

Wed Jul 9, 2014 3:43pm EDT
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By Karen Pierog

(Reuters) - The Detroit Institute of Arts collection may be worth as much as $4.6 billion, but a sale of art works would raise less than $2 billion to pay the bankrupt city's creditors, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Michael Plummer, an art expert hired by the institute and the city to evaluate the collection and ways to raise cash from it, concluded that litigation and market conditions would depress prices. Liquidating the most valuable works would eventually force the museum to close, in his opinion.

"Rather than being a source of cash to creditors or a burden on the current city, in fact, the DIA is the single most important cultural asset the city currently owns for rebuilding the vitality of the city," Plummer reported.

Some of Detroit's hold-out creditors have been pushing the city to sell or monetize art works to increase settlement payments in the city's plan to adjust $18 billion of debt and exit the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

"The report makes it abundantly clear that selling art to settle debt will not generate the kind of revenue the city's creditors claim it will," said Bill Nowling, spokesman for Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

A spokesman for one of those creditors, bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Co, declined to comment.

Plummer, principal of Artvest Partners LLC, which was paid $112,500 to produce the report, estimated the collection's value at $2.76 billion on the low end, $3.68 billion in the mid-range and $4.6 billion on the high end.

A sale using the mid-range estimate would fetch as much as $1.8 billion or as little as $1.14 billion.   Continued...

People walks past a painting titled "The Wedding Dance" by artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder displayed at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, Michigan December 7, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Lott