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Detroit Creditors File in Court to Push for DIA Art Sale

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Honoré Daumier, “The Defenders” (c.1862-65) (image via eBay)

In a legal filing today first reported in the Detroit Free Press, a consortium of Detroit creditors aggressively make their case for the sale of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection. The document, dated November 26, charges that emergency manager Kevyn Orr has been insufficiently transparent about the process by which Christie’s is evaluating the DIA’s collection. The attorneys for this multinational group of creditors believe the current appraisal process “could result in an inappropriately low assessment [of the DIA collection], substantially below the market value of the Art, which is speculated to be in the billions of dollars range.” The filing further cites the recent record-breaking sale at Christie’s of Lucian Freud’s Francis Bacon triptych as “a competitive auction that was the culmination of over a month of a public, international marketing efforts.” (As we have previously argued, it is a mistake to compare the results of such individual “successes” with the proposed liquidation — partial or not — of Detroit’s collection.)

The attorneys representing the creditors, among their ranks such blue-chip international firms as Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Kirkland & Ellis, and Kramer Levin, do not mince words in their demands: “[T]here needs to be a construct that addresses the fact that the DIA, or art, is not an essential asset and especially not one that is essential to the delivery of services in the city.”

The filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Southern Division) was made jointly by the representatives of eight different city of Detroit creditors, ranging from public pensions to obscure Luxembourg-domiciled investment entities: Financial Guaranty Insurance Company; Dexia; Michigan Council 25 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO and Sub-Chapter 98, City of Detroit Retirees; Wilmington Trust Company; Hypotekenbank; Ambac Assurance Corporation; FMS Wertmanagement; Syncora.

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