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Judge Rules Detroit Bankruptcy Creditors Can’t Take DIA Art Off Walls For Inspection

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A man looks at a painting at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) on September 3, 2013. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

A man looks at a painting at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) on September 3, 2013. (Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge in Detroit’s bankruptcy case has rejected a request from creditors for a court order allowing them hands-on access to examine valuable art.

Attorneys for bond insurers who fear significant losses in Detroit’s bankruptcy say there are potential buyers who should be allowed to look at certain pieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The city is opposed to any sale and instead is committed to an $816 million deal with foundations, philanthropists and the state of Michigan that would protect the art and soften retiree pension cuts.

Attorney Marc Kieselstein acknowledged the art is a “glittering link to the glory days of Detroit.” But he says it might have to yield to something “more grubby” — creditor losses.

In federal court Thursday, attorneys pleaded their case to Judge Steven Rhodes.

“I can’t believe it,” reported WWJ’s Charlie Langton, who was in court on Thursday. “We just got through about an hour hearing where the major issue was whether or not the art at the DIA should be taken off the walls for inspection. I kid you not.”

Museum attorney Arthur O’Reilly said inspecting fragile art is risky.

He said it would take scaffolding, the unrolling of tapestries, and would severely disrupt the DIA.

The creditors are owed, in total, around $1.4 billion; and their attorneys claim city-owned art could fetch two to three times as much as Christy’s Auction House said it appraised for.

But Judge Steven Rhodes said Thursday there are no grounds for such an “extraordinary” step.'”

Rhodes said the art can be viewed just like any other museum patron would see it.

“Essentially, the judge said, ‘Are you kidding? Rip the art off the DIA walls so you can take a look at the back of the art? Come on!'” reported Langton. “‘If you really want to take a look at that art, buy a ticket, wait in line, and spend as many hours in the DIA as possible.'”

Rhodes said data provided to creditors by Christy’s Auction House really should suffice.  He left it up to the museum if it wants to allow access to art in storage.

The decision came down Thursday afternoon.

Meantime, Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr  has been in Lansing this week, testified before state lawmakers as they continue to consider a potential vote on the financial bailout.

MORE:  Will Detroit Get State Money? Lawmakers Hold Hearings In Lansing

Detroit Bankruptcy: Complete Coverage

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 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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