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DIA Promises Fight To Protect Art

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(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - The director of the Detroit Institute of Arts says the museum will take legal action if needed to block any potential sale of works from its collection as part of Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy filing.

“Absolutely.”

That was DIA Director Graham Beal’s answer when asked by The Detroit News if the museum would hold a legal shield to any attack on its collection by creditors seeking to take Detroit’s debt out of the red.

“There’s no precedent for this. It all depends on the (bankruptcy judge’s) rulings,” Beal said, noting that such litigation could take years.

International auction house Christie’s said last week it will appraise some pieces in the museum’s collection, with the city picking up the $200,000 tab to do so. That comes as federal judge considers state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s request to push the city into the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Christie’s said the appraisal “is one of many steps that will be necessary for the legal system to reach a conclusion about the best long-term solution for the citizens of Detroit.”

The museum said in a statement it is cooperating in the process.

“However, we continue to believe there is no reason to value the collection as the Attorney General has made clear that the art is held in charitable trust and cannot be sold as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. We applaud the EM’s focus on rebuilding the City, but would point out that he undercuts that core goal by jeopardizing Detroit’s most important cultural institution,” the statement read.

The DIA is considered one of the top art museums in the country. The city purchased many of the pieces in the collection years ago during more prosperous times, and art could be considered assets in a bankruptcy. Estimates of the DIA’s collection come in around $4 billion.

MORE: DIA Director: You Can’t Help But Be Worried

[Detroit Bankruptcy: Continuing Coverage]

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