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A1 News Roundup

Why the Detroit Institute of Arts's Collection Has a Value Beyond Decimal Points


Why the Detroit Institute of Arts's Collection Has a Value Beyond Decimal Points
The Detroit Institute of Arts


The dire straits in which the Detroit Institute of Arts finds itself do not appear to be abating anytime soon, at least not during the dog days of summer. The story, in case you are unfamiliar, involves the nearly bankrupt city of Detroit, which is considering selling off works from its publicly owned museum's hypothetically highly valuable collection in order to sate its creditors' demands. This notion has understandably incited sweeping disapproval from the public on both a national and local level; the outraged include Thomas Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the College Art Association, which represents over 14,000 art professionals; and even Graham Bell, the director of the Detroit Institute of Art, himself.

(Not everyone is opposed to the idea, however, as's Virginia Postrel, for example, argues rather cogently that since the city paid for the works in the first place—an unusual method of stockpiling a museum, rather than accepting art from donors with strict statements of intent—it should be able to sell them to pay for more widely-needed services.)

The widespread outrage has prompted swift political action, as a bill that would add a provision to state law protecting the collection from a fire sale was introduced by Michigan Republican Senator Randy Richardville and passed by the state senate only to be met with equally swift political inaction, as the state's House of Representatives opted instead to take their two-month-long summer leave rather than vote on the measure. Whether the bill would have held up to federal bankruptcy law is one thing; the fact that it would still need to be ratified by governor Rick Snyder—the same man who appointed the city's emergency manager Kevyn D. Orr after the city voted against the proposal—is another. 

Vultures, in the form of art appraisers, are circling. Though the appeal of selling the institution's collection for financial relief must be appealing when more drastic options are also being considered—despite the fact that it would in no way come close to solving the city's debt crisis—the short-term gains of gutting the artistic heart of a city would pale in comparison to the potential long-term benefits that art offers. (Look no further than to the situations of Greece, Italy, or Spain, where selling off national treasures was never considered, even in the face of a significantly more imposing financial crisis. Not that Detroit is an international tourist destination because of its art, exactly... but neither was New York a century ago.) 

While art's spiritual value may seem to be worth little when works can be sold to stave off impending bankruptcy—a common contemporary conflation of art's real value with a market price symptomatic of a much larger crisis of class inequality—it is precisely art's intrinsic ability to inspire, embolden, and encourage change, even in the most dire of social and political situations, that demonstrates the necessity of keeping Detroit's collection intact. 


“He’s a brilliant man, and he’s got a lot of brilliant stuff coming. I am happy to be his student. To say that I am a student of Damien Hirst is like, I can retire.” Hip hop artist and producer Swizz Beatzat the Gordon Parks Foundation Awards dinner—where he was honored along with designers Peter Beard and Donna Karan—on his collaboration with the world's richest artist


Less Separation Between Church and Art — Following its first ever appearance in the Venice Biennale, the Vatican recently announced at the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel that it plans to not only spend money building new churches, but commissioning artworks for them as well. (Independent)

Netflix Nabs Vaughn's Documentary — Actor Vince Vaughn, best known for his roles in the movies Wedding Crashers and Swingers, has teamed up with his sister Valeri to create a Netflix-viewable documentary about elaborate mural art on "peace walls" in Northern Ireland, which were built in the 1960s to separate Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. (WSJ) 

Tempered Expectations for California Art Funding — After a bill that would have guaranteed at least $1 million in annual funding for the California Arts Council failed to pass the state assembly, the group has decided to reintroduce the bill again next year, though with a slightly lower amount. (LA Times)

Shifting Stance on Saving Serra Sculpture — After a heated four-year battle, Canadian developer Hickory Hill Investments has agreed to preserve "Shift," a four-decade-old outdoor sculpture by Richard Serra that zig-zags through a plot of private property and was recently designated a cultural heritage site. (NYT)

Support Does Not Buy Silence — English art critic Jonathan Jones proposes that contemporary art is more publicly visible in Britain than it was 30 years ago thanks to governmental efforts, but then curiously postulates that any artistic denouncement of the administration's policies—such as Jeremy Deller's contentious booth at this year's Venice Biennale—is thereby hypocritical. (Guardian)

Court Rules for Auction House in Repudiation Case — In what might set a precedence for artists' rights for years to come, a New York state appeals court will resolve a multimillion dollar suit leveled by Marc Jancou Contemporary Gallery against Sotheby's when the auction house agreed to withdraw Cady Noland's Cowboys Milking after the artist argued to repudiate the piece, invoking her rights under the federal Visual Rights Act. (AiA)

Sure to Draw Crowds 60% of the Time, Every Time — A scant month before the December release of "Anchorman: The Legend Continues," the Newseum in Washington, D.C., will pay homage to one of the most famous fictional newscasters when they host "Anchorman: The Exhibit," which will feature sets and props—including Ron Burgundy's jazz flute!—from the 2004 cult classic film. (Washington Post)

Let the Surge of Bike-based Art Begin! — Last week at Art on Air's Clocktower Gallery, a recently released Citi Bike was incorporated into the performance of artist duo the New Dreamz, which apparently falls entirely within the new bike share phenomena's rules. (Art F City)

Biennale Reviews En Masse — Following the flood of accounts from the 55th Venice Biennale, we've culled a couple of our favorites—not to mention our own—by Holland Cotter and Dan Fox, who extol the exhibitions avoidance of the mainstream market and are wary of the contemporary curatorial obsession with the recent past, respectively. (NYT & Frieze)

Hirschhorn Bubble Project Bursts — The hotly anticipated, if not highly expensive project to build a bubble, known as the Seasonal Inflatable Structure, on the roof of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. have been deflated by the Smithsonian Institution, citing financial insecurities, leading to the resignation of director Richard Koshalek, who will pitch the idea to a number of other museums on the west coast. (Gallerist)

Radiant Renaissance Painting Now Seen in New Light — In an effort to protect its prized portrait from unintentional wear and glare, the Louvre has installed a custom lamp around the Mona Lisa to both eliminate harmful ultraviolet and infrared radiation and illuminate the painting to reveal its original coloration. (Gizmodo)


A Prospective Plan for the Evolution of the 21st Century Gallery — In advance of their presence on an Art Basel (in Basel) panel with the ever-informed Josh Baer, gallerists Elizabeth Dee and Ed Winkleman held an impromptu interview to discuss the changing nature of the gallery system in today's increasingly mega-gallery dominated marketplace. A fascinating read full of insight from one of today's brightest gallerists.

Swiped Street Art Sold at Auction — Following the controversial removal of urban artist Banksy's Slave Labor mural from a building in Britain, the work has received three bids in excess of $1 million at a private event last week, which the owners of the spray painting will evaluate and choose amongst, with the aim of picking a buyer who plans to keep the piece in the country. (Bloomberg

Koons Ties Up Tycoons — Justice Barbara Kapnick, charged with settling the legal dispute between gallerist Larry Gagosian and billionaire Ronald Perelman regarding a multimillion dollar Jeff Koons "Popeye" sculpture, has deemed the whole argument to be superfluous and urged the parties involved to settle their affairs over drinks in the Hamptons. (Bloomberg)

Sotheby's Director, Art Market Weathervane — In a recent piece about what the Venice Biennale means for the future of the art market, Carol Vogel elicited an interesting response from Tobias Meyer, the director of contemporary art at Sotheby's, who deemed the Massimiliano Gioni-curated exhibition as a "game changer" due to its examination of the human subconscious through an incorporation of older and outsider art alongside contemporary works, an "antidote" to today's obsession over Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons. (NYT)

— IN & OUT —

Though dealers Dominique Lévy and Robert Mnuchin had continued to co-operate the L&M Arts gallery in Venice, California, after deciding to run independent galleries in September of last year, the former partners recently announced last week that they will be shuttering their Los Angeles-based location.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has tabbed acting director Caroline Baumann for a permanent position, filling the role of the late Bill Moggridge, who passed away last year. 

Beginning in late June, Susan Sellers, who is a founder and director of the design studio 2x4 and a Senior Critic in Graphic Design at the Yale School of Art, will serve as the Metropolitan Museum of Art's head of the institution's design department.


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