DIA Analysis: Collection valued in the billions but would sell for less than half that

DIA Analysis: Collection valued in the billions but would sell for less than half that

photo (15)A New York art investment firm estimates the Detroit Institute of Arts collection is worth billions of dollars. But, the firm says, if the art was sold to pay creditors in the bankruptcy, it would likely only bring in half that amount.

The company, Artvest Partners produced a 112-page report for Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr analyzing the financial value of the D-I-A’s collection as well as issues and dynamics involved in selling it. The city and the museum hired the firm.

NextChapterDetroit.com has a longer analysis of some of the history and findings of the report.

Several creditors and some pensioners have argued the city should monetize the collection to pay part of its $18 billion dollars in debt. They likely won’t be happy this report came out just days after they needed to return their ballots voting on the city’s Plan of Adjustment, the blueprint for restructuring debt, which does not include selling anything from the DIA. The Plan does include the “grand bargain” funding: that’s the state’s $195 million and the private foundation contributions of $366 million to fund pensions. The agreement also comes with a $100 million commitment from the DIA toward pension funding.

The Artvest report estimates total worth of the museum’s 60,000 pieces is between $2.8 billion and $4.6 billion dollars with the individual pieces ranging in value from tens of millions to a few thousand dollars.

The Artvest analysis also finds selling the collection would produce between $1.1 billion and $1.8 billion in revenues. The report identifies several challenges in today’s market. For example, a majority of the DIA’s collection is comprised of styles that have fallen out of favor with collectors and investors.

“This is the first comprehensive valuation of the entire DIA collection. The report makes it abundantly clear that selling art to settle debt will not generate the kind of revenue the City’s creditors claim it will,” says Bill Nowling, Orr’s spokesman.

Still, creditors likely won’t give up the fight to have the city sell art to pay debt.

The report was authored by Michael Plummer, co-founder of the Artvest firm and a former employee at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. He is scheduled to appear as an expert witness during the city’s bankruptcy trial in August.

-By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda

@WDETSandra and nextchapter@wdet.org

Featured art above by Carl Oxley III.