The Detroit Free Press recently published an interview with the judge responsible for overseeing the Detroit bankruptcy case. There is a transcript along with a brief video. He stated that he never believed that the art should be sold to repay the creditors and fund the city’s pension plan and that he stood with the Michigan attorney general’s opinion that the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection be preserved. You can read the attorney general’s opinion here.
What was particularly interesting was that the judge believed that the only way to protect the pension plan for city workers in the long term was for the city to be vitalized. An in order to remain vital, the collection at the Detroit Institute of Art had to remain intact. Selling the collection would only have resulted in a short-term solution that would have long-term negative consequences.
Further, he stated that by taking the collection off of the table, it forced all parties to be creative and think outside the box when it came to settlement.
The Detroit Institute of Art is very lucky to have such a sympathetic judge who saw far more than dollar signs when considering the collection. No every judge is so understanding and would only have seen a solution that would have benefited a few in the short term, but denied the benefits of a world class collection to the citizens of Detroit for at least decades. Perhaps the Detroit Institute of Art would never have recovered. The city still has a long economic recovery ahead of it. But at least it still has a major tourist draw in its favor.