1970s Detroit Institute of Arts commercial shows works now slated for sale

The slogan ''You Gotta Have Art' rings differently today

December 19, 2013

Another sad chapter in the book of Detroit is playing out today: the Motor City is sizing up masterpieces in its city-owned art museum for a possible sale.

Detroit has hired auction house Christie's Fine Art Auctioneer to find out the works' value, and detailed appraisal released Wednesday shows the works are worth between $454 million and $867 million if sold. Thankfully, this only covers museum pieces owned by the city itself, about five percent of the total collection. 

A final report is expected today, showing the value of individual pieces.

The Detroit Institute of Arts Museum has one of the nation's most important collections with works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, Winslow Homer, Mary Cassatt, frescoes by Diego Rivera, and much more. Museums are the only way most of us will ever see pieces like this in real life.

And compounding the shame, if the works are sold, it may not even turn on a single street light, feed one person, or buy an extra police patrol in Detroit. Instead, the profit would likely be used to pay down a portion of the city's billion-dollar debt.

All of this is the context in which the above Detroit Institute of Arts commercial must be viewed. Made in the comparatively happier days of 1976, the musical spot showcases the fine collection—I even spotted a Calder in the montage.

To think that it could now be a video sales brochure makes the heart sink.