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December 23, 2014

Mich. Historic House Quietly Sold Cezanne Work for $100-Million

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., sold a Paul Cezanne painting for $100-million to a private buyer last year but kept the deal secret for fear of muddying the debate over monetizing the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection, writes the Detroit Free Press. The sale of Cezanne's 1904 work "La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue du bosquet du Chateau Noir" was disclosed on the nonprofit historic home's 2013 tax form.

The Ford House, which has an existing endowment, is using the proceeds from the Cezanne sale to establish a second fund, for preservation, conservation, and restoration of the 1929 mansion, its grounds, and its collection of art and design objects. Ethical standards for art museums forbid selling works for purposes other than building collections, but the guidelines for historic homes are more flexible.

Ford House President Katherine Mullins said the institution kept the sale quiet to avoid causing problems for the Detroit art museum, which at the time faced a possible sell-off of its holdings to satisfy creditors in the city's bankruptcy proceeding. Graham Beal, the Detroit Institute's director, said publicity over the Cezanne's sale price could have emboldened creditors or city officials seeking to use the art museum's masterpieces to address Detroit's debt.