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DIA Board Keeping Mum On Possible Asset Sale

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(credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

(credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – No comment from DIA board members on what was decided during a meeting on the possibility that museum assets will be sold to pay the city’s debt.

While the discussion was under way, a long-time museum docent shared her thoughts on the possibility that DIA artwork could be sold-off. Pauline Mengebier doubts it will happen.

“I think it’s highly unlikely, actually. It’s, it’s just, it’s too, it’s too — … it would be such a disaster, I think it’s highly unlikely,” said Mengebier.

It’s not clear whether the items can even be sold off. A judge would most likely have final say.

Detroit’s state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr last month said the DIA’s collection may have to be sold if Detroit seeks bankruptcy protection. The collection could be considered city assets to cover Detroit’s long-term debt, estimated at more than $14 billion.

The city owns the DIA’s building and collection, while daily operations are overseen by a nonprofit. The scope of Orr’s power as an emergency manager to sell the collection or any other major assets, such as the city’s water department, likely would be tested in court.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in March appointed Orr as emergency manager, giving Orr the final say on Detroit’s fiscal matters. The city’s budget deficit could reach $380 million by July 1, it could run out of cash before the end of the year, and bankruptcy hasn’t been ruled out.

Under a Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, neither a judge nor creditors can force the city to liquidate its assets, but bankruptcy experts say a judge and creditors could push for a sale. Some creditors have already asked Orr whether the DIA collection is “on the table,” Nowling said.

When asked about his views on the situation, Snyder said talk of selling the art collection is “premature” and under one form of bankruptcy, some assets are deemed too important to the public to be sold.

Founded in 1885, the DIA covers 658,000 square feet that includes more than 100 galleries and 60,000 works of art. According to its website, the museum is among the top six in the United States. Its collection includes works by Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pieter Bruegel the Elder and scores of others. It displays American, European, modern and contemporary art, as well as significant African, Asian, Native American, Oceanic, Islamic and ancient collections.

The museum doesn’t estimate how much its collection might be worth, and any sale price for specific items would depend on market conditions.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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