DIA evaluation of $2 billion includes only ‘works bought directly with city funds’
The 459 most valuable masterpieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts have a fair-market value of less than $2 billion, Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr said Tuesday. That figure is significantly below most predictions for the value of the art, which many observers expected to reach at least several billion dollars — perhaps as much as $8 billion. A figure less than $2 billion is likely to inflame the passions of bondholders, unions and other creditors who see DIA masterpieces as a prime source for recovering the billions they are owed by the city. It also increases the chances that a court battle over the fate of the DIA will become even more contentious as Orr prepares his plan of adjustment to restructure city finances. On another front, the lower-than-expected estimate could make it easier for Orr to justify his push to extract roughly $500 million in revenue from the DIA to help restructure the city. A high Christie’s estimate had been widely expected to increase pressure on Orr to demand even more from the DIA
In May, the Free Press consulted art dealers and auction records to estimate the market value of 38 big-ticket works at the DIA. The tally was $2.5 billion. Included in those works were six paintings bought by the city between 1922 and 1930 that also were evaluated by Christie’s. The newspaper’s estimate for those works was more than $500 million, including price tags between $50 million and $150 million for Matisse’s “The Window,” Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance” and Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait.” So how could 459 works add up to less than $2 billion? Part of the answer could be that many of the DIA’s most valuable works — including those by Caravaggio, Ruisdael, Van Gogh, De Kooning, Giacometti, Cezanne and others — were not evaluated because they were either donated to the museum or bought with funds other than city dollars. Though every piece of art at the DIA is owned by the city regardless of how it was acquired, Orr decided to evaluate only works bought directly with city funds to avoid messier legal entanglements of donated works and expedite the evaluation process. The DIA owns roughly 65,000 works.