selling out?


Oh my.


detroit eminemn keep going

Is it possible a world renowned museum could sell off its collection to resolve a city-it-resides-in’s debt?




It is being discussed.


Seriously discussed?


Kind of.





The city of Detroit is on the brink of bankruptcy.


Here are some factoids <I will be close on how bad it is>.


The city will end close to $50 million in debt at end of year <even with about $130 million in state financial assistance … which really makes them about $180million in debt>.


They will have an accumulated deficit to maybe $1.35 billion in about 4 years.


As a reminder.


Detroit is the USA’s eleventh largest city with a population a little over 5 million people.

As comparison … it is about the same size as Baghdad, Iraq – Santiago, Chile – St. Petersburg, Russia – Singapore.




What are they gonna do about going bankrupt?


They are discussing auctioning off the Detroit Institute of Arts’ billion dollar collection, including works by Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse, to satisfy creditors.


Everyone is worried <long list including unions, city & local officials, citizens, the museum, artsy rich people> and everyone knows shit needs to get done to improve the city <bankruptcy means some important stuff doesn’t get done … cleaning up and fixing infrastructure stuff>.




I am clearly in the artsy <non-rich> category.


And my fingers were itching to write some indignant diatribe on the crumbling of civilization as we know it if we were going to diminish arts & masterpieces to a point where it is simply something to sell off to settle debt.


And then I took a moment.


And thought a little.


And you know what?



Setting aside the brutal truth that the city probably has typical government inefficiencies and there are probably a number of different ways to resolve their debt beyond this action … I would do it.




I would.


The implications of this idea are staggering on many fronts but … well … bankruptcy is bankruptcy.


And when do we suggest that people are responsible for the payment of their debts rather than negotiating ‘settlement of less than what was given’?


Maybe Detroit needs to draw a line in the sand and take responsibility for its debt.


They have assets which would cover the debt <some of the masterpieces are theirs to sell> so how in good conscious could the city deprive creditors, or the people who would assume the cutbacks, of money.


What happens when the city pensioners are given the choice of selling art or not receiving their pensions?

The city needs money to pay creditors <note that ‘creditors’ means that they have given something of value>.





Talk about a test of character.


As one would expect they are considering many options to help rectify Detroit’s fiscal crisis.


And they have proposed some fairly significant cuts in all programs and pension/pay for employees.

None of which has been received well.




I hate to break the news to everyone in Detroit.


Nothing anyone proposed will be received well.


This isn’t easy.




Another thing.


The fact that museum officials oppose the idea of a fire sale <they would be non-human if they didn’t> and they have hired a bankruptcy attorney to suggest ways to protect the collection from possible losses <which seems a little ignorant of the issue at hand … and … oh … who is paying for the attorney????> means this fire sale will never happen.


It won’t.


And it is unfortunate.


It pains me to actually suggest NOT selling masterpieces as ‘unfortunate’ … but extreme situations require some extreme solutions and decisions.



One last consideration …

Uh oh. No one <not many at least> visit the museum. What’s the use of having a world class museum if no one sees it?

It is truly a world class museum and it would be such a disappointment to lose any of the art housed there.

But too bad also is the fact that it was almost empty of people.



So we are discussing having no money, having a museum with multiple masterpieces that not many people go see and lots of debt.


Here is where I end up on this.

<metaphor> My own house is crumbling around me and I can’t afford to pay the bills and I have creditors who would be calling me if I could afford a phone … and I have a spectacular painting sitting in my attic <because no one sees it> which would solve all my money issues but I am refusing to sell on principle?


That is nuts.

It would suck to sell my painting … just as it would suck to sell off masterpieces housed in the museum … but … they are things.

And things can be bought again someday down the road.


detroit skylinePride is a tricky thing.

But being pragmatic is something to be proud of.

Making the really hard decisions is something to be proud of.

You may not be proud of the circumstances you are in … but you know what? It is only the ones who can make the really hard decisions that actually change the circumstances.


Detroit. Sell the paintings. Get back on your feet. And make people come to visit Detroit for Detroit … not the masterpieces hidden in some building.

And remember Detroit native Eminem’s words … “… I just keep going through the changes.” Because not keeping going ? Well. It ain’t an option.

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Written by Bruce