The Battle for the Art of Detroit

Alvin Hall visits Detroit and asks if the city that owes 18 billon dollars should sell its art collection.

Detroit, once a symbol of American industrial might, has famously filed for bankruptcy, becoming the biggest US city to go broke. This was a city that in its heyday, during the first half of the 20th century, had seen the birth of the American car industry boost its fortunes and give it a nickname - Motor City.

During the second half of the 20th city, it was music, specifically Motown, that carried Detroit's name around the world. But even as the hits were pouring out of the Motown label's headquarters, Detroit was a city in trouble. The car industry that had brought it wealth was now contracting and thousands of manufacturing jobs were disappearing.

Despite many years of financial difficulty, which resulted in 40% of the city's streetlights not working, tens of thousands of abandoned buildings, and a population that declined 25 percent in the last decade alone, Detroit still had one remaining jewel in its crown - the Detroit Institute of Arts. Its collection was world famous - the first Van Gogh to be owned by an American arts museum, dazzling Matisses, Rembrandts, a distinguished selection of German Expressionist paintings, along with African Art, Native American Art, and art from Asia and the Islamic world.

But should a city owing 18 billon dollars, much of it attributed to unfunded pension obligations, sell its prestigious art collection? This question has been asked within and outside the city. And it's a question that resonates worldwide as financially strapped arts institutions struggle to pay their bills. Presenter Alvin Hall visits Detroit to find out if, in the words of a famous advert for the D.I.A "You Gotta Have Art", even when you're broke.

Producer: Ekene Akalawu.

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28 minutes

Last on

Mon 3 Nov 2014 16:00

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