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In Bankruptcy, Detroit Could Sell Off Its Art Collection

Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" sits in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts
Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" sits in front of the Detroit Institute of ArtsPhotograph by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The Detroit Institute of the Arts is home to a collection that includes paintings by Rembrandt and Van Gogh, a statue of Rodin’s The Thinker, and a giant mural by Diego Rivera celebrating the city’s auto industry.

That collection, estimated to exceed $15 billion in value, could soon be sold off at auction to the highest bidder. Detroit was taken over by the State of Michigan in March but has yet to declare bankruptcy in court. If the city declares bankruptcy, the state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, can sell off its assets to repay creditors—and artworks housed in the 128-year-old museum are not exempt. The city’s debt  about equals the worth of the museum’s holdings.