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Daniel Mears/The Detroit News, via Associated Press
The Detroit Institute of Arts, whose world-class collection has been targeted as a potential source of cash to help dig Detroit out of federal bankruptcy, announced Wednesday that it would raise $ 100 million to help save itself, joining a group of private foundations that have already pledged $ 370 million toward the effort.
Officials at the city-owned museum, which, along with Detroit, has struggled financially for many years, had said as recently as two weeks ago that such a huge commitment â money to help the city pay its pensions â would be âcompletely unfeasible.â But in a statement on Wednesday the museum said that it had reached out to corporate leaders in Detroit and would commit to a multiyear effort that would âstretch our fund-raising abilities to their capacityâ as a way to protect its collection.
âThe D.I.A. has consistently met its financial challenges and goals and will meet this challenge with enthusiasm and confidence,â said Eugene A. Gargaro, the chairman of the museumâs board. Like the money committed recently by 10 national and local foundations, the money raised by the museum would be pledged toward the cityâs pension obligations, which are believed to be underfunded by as much as $ 3.5 billion.
As part of the deal, the city would relinquish ownership of the museum, and it would be owned by a nonprofit organization, as most large public museums across the country are. This would relieve the city of any future financial responsibility for the institute while also shielding the institute from future municipal threats.
Gerald E. Rosen, the federal judge who is mediating the bankruptcy case and who devised the plan to try to protect the art by aiding pensioners, said in a statement on Wednesday: âWe all recognize the magnitude of this great undertaking and appreciate the depth of the D.I.A.âs commitment to the city of Detroit and its retirees.â
Last week, Michiganâs governor, Rick Snyder, asked the State Legislature to provide $ 350 million to the overall fund to reduce possible pension cuts and save the art collection. But even if that money comes through â leading to an overall fund of more than $ 800 million â it remains unclear whether a deal could be struck with creditors in bankruptcy court to prevent the sale of art.
The Detroit emergency managerâs office last year hired Christieâs to appraise a portion of the collection that included many of the museumâs masterpieces. The auction house said that selling this portion would generate $ 454 million to $ 867 million, a number that has been criticized by some of the cityâs creditors as being inaccurately low for the best of the museumâs collection.
The possibility of selling part of the cityâs cultural history to pay its bills has enraged many, who say it would be a betrayal and would hurt Detroitâs chances of being able to revive itself economically. Museum officials have warned that a sale of masterpieces would not just diminish the museum but would lead to its eventual dissolution because donors would cease to give to it and a three-county tax fund that now provides it with crucial operating money would be withdrawn.
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