Museum Yard Sale: Detroit's Deficit and Denial

The following was originally posted by Kevin in his blog,

"How much for the Picasso with the blue, grumpy old lady?"
"$4 million."
"Would you take two?"
"Umm. Let me ask my wife."

"Melancholy Woman," which returned to the DIA last summer reminds me so much of an estate sale my wife and I dropped in on in Bloomfield Hills. It was a fabulous house with riches galore -- all at marked down prices. The Coach handbags, for example, were only $250, for crying out loud.

And there, in the dining room, in the corner glaring at us vultures, was the owner. I'm not sure where her husband was. We concocted all kinds of scenarios involving some Ponzi-schemer now in prison and his better-half needing to pay the legal expenses. She was visibly bitter and her wine glass was refilled twice before we left the place.

Recently, in a lightning decision reserved generally for Right-To-Work votes, the Michigan State Senate committee passed a bill that would protect the Detroit Institute of Arts fabulous collection from being sold to help pay the bills for the city's financial deficit.

It was a hypothetical threat -- one that the Emergency Financial Manager responsible for addressing Detroit's deficit that is $16 billion. That's right -- that's the other "b" word.

And like any husband and wife sitting down with the budget, you've got to look at everything.

"Do you want to sell one of the kids?"
"I don't think we can do that."
"Oh, right. I was just thinking out loud. How about getting rid of the car?"
"We kind of need that."
"Oh yeah."
"You're sure about the kid-thing?"
"Pretty sure."
"Hmm.. I don't know what else we can sell."

It seems like a an insurmountable problem. But the first thing number-crunchers do is look at everything. And, as Tom Walsh pointed out in the Free Press recently, there is a good bit of denial when it comes to which cows in the herd are sacred.


I think selling an art collection sounds pretty absurd and would rather see a few other things get examined first, particularly since I'm a big fan of the DIA. But then I'm reminded, as well, of one of my favorite obscure bits of art-within-art there.


The knight on the left has some early tattoo-work...


It's actually the original owner wearing the suit we're looking at stopping by to worship Jesus on the cross...


You've got to admire the ego of someone who would put a portrait of himself on his own clothing -- let alone eternal clothing like a suit of armor. But to add him to the big scene at Calvary is one more step toward the questionable kneeling going on here. If he's really that humble, maybe he should have chosen a different visitor -- maybe Mary or an apostle or two?

It's impressive to see how fast this Senate can move when it's got a hot-button issue like protecting artwork. And I'm not up for the yard-sale by any means. But I think, like our knight with his initial meeting with his armorer/tailor, perhaps the focus for our leadership may have slipped a little.