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May 28, 2013

Storm Looms Over Museum's Collection as Detroit Battles Debt

Leaders at the Detroit Institute of Arts say they will fight any effort by the city's emergency fiscal manager to sell the museum's masterworks as part of efforts to erase $15-billion in municipal liabilities, The Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press write.

State-appointed city manager Kevyn Orr is seeking an appraisal of the institute's world-renowned collection, and last week his representatives reportedly warned museum officials that the art could be considered a city asset and thus subject to debt-related claims. "Kevyn Orr doesn't want the collection sold," said Bill Nowling, the manager's spokesman said. "But in bankruptcy, it could be eyed by creditors."

Institute officials acknowledge that the collection, which includes works by Van Gogh and Diego Rivera, is city-owned but argue that it is held in "public trust" and thus cannot be sold. The brewing battle triggered an impassioned response in the art world, with figures such as Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Thomas Campbell decrying the possibility of a cultural fire sale.