Detroit officials upset over possible sale of city art collection

May 31, 2013 at 3:16 PM

DETROIT, May 31 (UPI) -- The possibility Detroit may help settle $16 billion in debt by selling a city-owned gallery's artwork is unsettling, business and civic leaders said.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr raised the possibility this week that some of the 66,000 works of art at the Detroit Institute of Art could end up in a Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceeding over the city's debt.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon, speaking at a forum about Detroit's future, termed as "unfortunate" press reports about the DIA's situation, the Detroit Free Press reported Friday.

He said selling off the DIA's collection was a "hypothetical situation."

Attendees at the forum speculated such an action would cause the rich to stop bequeathing to the museum, or that traveling exhibits would no longer stop there.

State Sen. Randy Richardville, leader of the Republican majority, filed a bill Thursday that would prevent a sell-off of DIA works.

Democratic state Rep. Thomas F. Stallworth III, who represents Detroit, also was critical of the idea, The Detroit News reported.

"By peddling its paintings and sculptures and selling off pieces of our history and heritage, Orr would be gutting Detroit's culture and cutting off its rebirth at the knees," he said.

Any sell-off could affect other city-owned sites such as the Detroit Historical Society and the Detroit Zoo.

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