DETROIT (WWJ) – Michigan’s attorney general says the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts can’t be sold to pay off any of the city’s debt during a municipal bankruptcy.
Bill Schuette said, in a written opinion issued Thursday, that the artwork is held by Detroit in charitable trust for all state residents.
“It is my opinion, therefore, that the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts is held by the City of Detroit in charitable trust for the people of Michigan, and no piece in the collection may thus be sold, conveyed, or transferred to satisfy City debts or obligations,” Schuette said. “In issuing this opinion, I recognize the serious financial hardships that face the City, the difficulties that the people who live and work in the City have endured for decades, and the many challenges facing the citizens of the City of Detroit and the State in the future.
“Yet, in the 128 years since the creation of the Detroit Institute of Arts, at no time have the people demanded that their most precious cultural resources be sold in order to satisfy financial obligations. To the contrary, the citizens of this State recognize that abandoning or selling the public’s artwork would damage not only the City’s but the State’s cultural commonwealth.
“In Michigan, we not only appreciate our cultural treasures, we guard them zealously in charitable trust for all state residents, present and future,” he said.
Schuette is the latest to weigh in on the much debated issue, issuing an opinion in response to a request from state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.
State-appointed Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has warned DIA officials that creditors could go after valuable pieces if he files for bankruptcy.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said he doesn’t want to see the art sold, and legislation is in the works in Lansing that would prevent it.
The DIA opened in 1885 and has more than 60,000 artworks.