The Detroit Institute of Arts originally was built with money allocated by the city and contributed from its residents. That relationship between the museum and its donors is the focus of a new book called “Valuing Detroit’s Art Museum: A History of Fiscal Abandonment and Rescue.”
Its author, Jeffrey Abt, a professor of art history at Wayne State University, spoke with WDET’s Sandra Svoboda about how the DIA’s history reflects the city’s, especially when it comes to finances and the bankruptcy.
Click on the audio link above to hear Abt’s full conversation with Sandra.
Here’s a transcript of what they discussed:
Svoboda: Why write a book now about the financial history of the Detroit Institute of Arts?
Abt: I was prompted to write it because of the news coverage about the museum and the bankruptcy and the misunderstandings, in some ways, the surprise that a lot of people had over the fact that the city could sell part of the collection possibly to settle their debts. And I could tell by the news coverage and also by the questions that journalists were asking about the museum’s history and how that could come about, and
I thought it was important to relate the history of the museum and its collections, its very tangled relationship with the city of Detroit, to the bankruptcy, the notion that the art might be sold.
SS: You dedicate the book to the “resourceful, hard-working and ever hopeful citizens of Detroit.” What does that dedication say to how you wrote the book in terms of including residents’ and citizens’ perspectives throughout the history of the museum?
JA: The museum was built with money from Detroit’s citizens, and
I think that many of the patrons of the museum who donated art to the museum over the years…