Detroit — September 27, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Detroit Institute of Arts is ready for the battle to protect its art, gets help from outside groups (including a dragon)



Earlier this month, in the dark of night, a giant dragon sidled its way up to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). It belched out a giant plume of flame which ignited a gas-soaked sign on the front lawn of the museum which spelled out the phrase #SaveTheArt. The scene was the artistic creation of Detroit artist Ryan C. Doyle. Here’s a terrific video of the event from the Detroit News:

You can read more about Doyle and his piece HERE.

The DIA is on the front lines of Detroit’s bankruptcy. And they know it. Even now Christie’s auction house is pawing over their holdings, putting a price tag on what is, for all intents and purposes, a priceless collection. In an email to DIA members yesterday, we learned this:

The Detroit Institute of Arts stands by its position that the museum’s art collection is held in trust for the citizens of Detroit and Michigan, and cannot be sold to satisfy Detroit’s creditors. That position was reinforced by a recent opinion from Michigan Attorney General, Bill Schuette. The Michigan State Senate has also passed a bill preventing the sale of art, but the bill has yet to move in the Michigan House of Representatives.

The DIA has appointed a team, including skilled trust, litigation and bankruptcy lawyers and political and public relations consultants, to develop and execute legal and political strategies to safeguard the museum’s collection. Those strategies are on-going and confidential.

Museum supporters can advance our political campaign by contacting their Michigan State Representatives to urge a State House vote on Senate Bill 401. Although the Michigan Senate approved the bill months ago, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R, Marshall) has so far refused to bring it to the House for a vote. Please inform your representative that as a constituent, you would like to see Senate Bill 401 moved into the House for a vote. Your representatives can help break the logjam and bring the bill forward. A positive vote in the State House will provide additional protection for the DIA’s art collection. This is a critical component in our political efforts to protect the collection.

To find out how to contact your representative:

The DIA is getting support from another group, as well. The Association of Art Museum Curators has moved its annual meeting next year to the Motor City:

The Association of Art Museum Curators (AAMC) announced today that it will move its 2014 conference to Detroit, with at least a day of programming set to take place at the Detroit Institute of Arts. “We have watched the situation in Detroit and at the DIA very closely this year,” says Emily Ballew Neff, President of the AAMC, “We believe that moving our conference to the DIA affirms our support of one of the most outstanding museum collections in the world. And, we thought, what better way to show this than by bringing hundreds of curators to its doors next May?”

The AAMC annual conference, scheduled to occur May 4 – 6, has an average attendance of around 300, and is the largest gathering of art museum curators in the world. “We are delighted to have the AAMC at the DIA,” says Graham W J Beal, DIA’s Director, “Our own curators have been active members of the organization since its inception, and we greatly look forward to welcoming the entire group next Spring.”

Other nearby museum hosts and venues will be confirmed this month. “Our conference committee is already at work planning another stellar program,” says Sally Block, Executive Director of the AAMC, “The Detroit-area offers us a chance to view an array of exceptional art collections, and its rich cultural history will contribute greatly to the content of our programming.”

The DIA is one of bright stars in Detroit and should not be sacrificed on the altar of prior bad decisions made mostly by people no longer in Detroit. In fact, when Detroit rises again, the DIA will play a significant role in attracting people to the city and serving as a hub for the arts and artistic expression. For that reason alone it should be left out of the fray to continue its good works. As Director Graham W. J. Beal puts it, “It’s supremely ironic that the DIA should be subjected to threats to the integrity of its collection immediately after achieving financial stability, thanks to the generosity of the voters of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.” Supremely ironic, indeed.

Godspeed, my friends. We’re all pulling for you.

[DIA “Thinker” image modified from CC photo by Michael Barera | Wikimedia Commons]