Home to more than 65,000 works of art, valued between an estimated $5-$9 Billion USD, by famed artists such as Picasso, van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Georgia O’Keefe, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Breughel, Diego Rivera, and hundreds more, the Detroit Institute of Arts receives around 1,000,000 visitors each year, making it one of the world’s most visited art museums. With a vast collection of sculptures, paintings, busts, artisanal sterling silver dishes and cutlery, ancient artifacts, photographs, murals, and mixed media works, primarily from Europe, the Detroit Institute of Arts, also called the DIA, has a little bit of everything. When the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the impressive cultural and historical markers it houses, was almost stolen from the people of Detroit and its visitors.
Detroit Institute of Arts Museum
The city of Detroit declared bankruptcy on July 13th, 2013, claiming that it had more than $20 Billion dollars worth of debt due to mismanagement, corruption, and “misplaced documentation”. To remedy this staggering debt, the largest ever in United States’ history by far, the Detroit Institute of Arts’ fantastic, world-class art collection was one of the very first things on the chopping block to try to bring the city above water again. In a controversial ploy to regain financial stability contrived by a state appointed emergency financial manager, the idea was that by selling off the DIA’s extensive art collection, the city could regain some semblance of solvency and put the city back on the path towards financial stability.
On the surface, this move made financial sense – selling off the assets the city owned in order to pay back its debt is how anyone would solve a debt. However, did the art inside the DIA belong to the city of Detroit to begin with? The Detroit Institute of Arts draws more than a million people to Detroit from all over the world each year who come to enjoy the fantastic works of art that can only be found in the Motor City, and losing that pull would mean a massive blow for a city that was already struggling to stay afloat.
Another glaring flaw about the proposed plan to sell off the Detroit Institute of Arts’ incredible collection would have been the monumental loss in cultural expression and education that is the DIA, much of which wouldn’t be accessible to a majority of people in Detroit or Michigan as a whole without the DIA. Simply put, there is nothing that even comes close to the Detroit Institute of Arts in the state, or even the Midwest. Not to mention the fact that the museum is such a draw that tourists from around the world visit the city just to see these breathtaking works of art, which means that it generates significant revenue for area businesses, restaurants, and hotels as well, all of which would be lost without the DIA.
After a massive public outcry, many people who, until then, had never even visited the Detroit Institute of Arts showed up to visit the museum in support of the city’s crown jewel, and in an unprecedented vote, residents of the three surrounding counties, Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb, voted to increase their property taxes for the next decade in order to help secure the Detroit Institute of Arts’ freedom. With such massive public support, and incredible donations to the tune of nearly $1 billion by donors from around the world, the museum was able to purchase itself from the city and the museum, along with its contents, was placed into a trust. To simplify, this essentially means that the museum owns itself and is separate from the City of Detroit’s mismanaged finances.
While of course this is a major victory for patrons and supporters of the arts, it’s a grim reminder of how at-risk the arts are in Michigan, and the United States. This cautionary tale also serves as a reminder to us all to support local artists, art galleries, and museums, before it’s too late. By showing local museums, performances halls, and other artistic spaces our support, we can prove to anyone who would doubt the importance of art in our lives that we won’t allow such priceless microcosms of culture, history, and individual expression to be taken away from us. While the DIA is now on the right path, one that leads it away from the city’s financial woes, many of its regular donors gave more than they ever have before, which means they may not give additional donations anytime soon.
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects at the Detroit Institute of Arts, aside from its massive collection of famous works of art, is the above French Cathedral, which was once the private chapel of a devout noble family, and would have been immensely expensive at the time to not only build, but maintain. The entire structure is completely authentic, and was deconstructed, transported, and reconstructed brick by brick using the same historically accurate building materials that would have been used back in the 1400s when it was created.
To discover more incredible art and enjoy the crown jewel of Detroit, and to show your support, visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, and explore the vast collection of world famous works of art, incredible collections of luxurious Dutch décor, Italian Renaissance paintings, and the collection of inspiritingly ornate sterling silver service, the world’s largest such collection.
All images by Annie Fairfax for AnnieFairfax.com, copyright 2014-2020.
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