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Label: detroit

Friday 11th September 2015Curator Salaries and Museum Bankruptcies

Executive salaries have been in the news quite a bit ever since the global financial meltdown in 2008. In case you hadn't been paying attention, or were on another planet during that time, executives at major firms that had experienced some serious financial trouble - and in some cases, were even directly responsible for the global issues - were being given outrageously large bonuses and salary raises despite their damaging actions. This trend has continued in many of the world's largest firms, even as companies are trying to refuse to provide raises for the lower levels of staff - you know, the people who actually do the work.

With all that in mind, it's hard to tell if the current situation at the beleaguered Detroit Institute of Arts should be surprising or not. For those of you who haven't been following the situation, partially as a direct result of the collapse of the US auto industry, which was centred around Detroit, the entire city of Detroit has declared bankruptcy. The bureaucrats charged with turning the city's books around have explored various methods of raising funds, and briefly floated the possibility of selling off some of the highly-valued collection from the Detroit Institute of Arts (as we wrote about previously). Fortunately, this idea was largely quashed, although some factions within the municipal government are still keen on the idea.

The truly baffling element, however, comes in the form of a press release from the DIA. They have decided to grant salary raises to their three top executives: the former CEO Graham Beal, the COO Annmarie Erickson, and the CFO Robert Bowen. These aren't mere pittances, however - each salary has been raised to the tune of $49,000 USD, an increase of more than the average yearly income of the residents of Detroit. The reason for this extremely generous raise? The turmoil caused by trying to fight off the city's emergency manager, who was the main driving force behind the idea of selling off parts of the museum's collection. Yes, you read that correctly: in order to cope with the possibility of selling off the collection due to lack of funding, they have given raises to their chief executives. The mind boggles.

As if that wasn't enough of an insult, the departing CEO Beal, who stepped down in June, was also granted a hefty severance package of $285,000. But wait, there's more! Beal was granted a loan from the museum to develop his house - and the entirety of that loan has also been forgiven, to the tune of over $155,000! It beggars belief, but there you have the solid numbers. It's a disgrace when the corporate financial excesses bleed over into the art world. Here's hoping it doesn't start a trend.
 

Posted on September 11th 2015 on 06:28pm
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Friday 17th January 2014The Drive to Save Detroit's Art Collection from Bankruptcy

While it may not be common knowledge in much of Europe, America's car manufacturing heartland is having some troubled times of late. After talks of bailouts of major car companies and successfully saving a few of them, we're finally starting to see some more complete fallout from the 2008 economic collapse that crippled much of American industry. One of the less-expected casualties from this turmoil, however, was the city of Detroit. Known unofficially as 'Motor City', Detroit was at the centre of American car manufacturing for a number of companies, and the city has been left bankrupt and desolate as jobs moved away and with them, the people. Abandoned houses are common, and the city is struggling to balance its debts.

Even fewer know that Detroit boasts a world-class art collection in the form of the Detroit Institute for Arts. As the gallery is owned and operated by the city, it has been presented by some officials as a means to help pull Detroit's economic futures out of the sinkhole they're currently mired in. The collection, is truly world class, with some of the highlights being van Gogh's 'Portrait of Postman Roulin', the famous sculptural masterwork by Rodin 'The Thinker',  'Fruit, Carafe and Glass' by Picasso as well as works by Bruegel the Elder, Cezanne, and Whistler, to name but a few.

Those who would hope to use the collection to help pay debts include insurance executives who view the works as non-essential to the mission of the city hope to gain as much as $2 billion dollars US from the sale of the best pieces, but museum officials say that initial consultations with Christie's auction house peg the collections value below that, and possibly even below $1 billion USD, as well as pointing out - rightly so - that sale of the collection wouldn't do much to solve Detroit's immediate financial problems and will eventually hinder the regrowth of the city into a vibrant metropolis.

As a compromise, city officials and the museum directors agreed to forestall the sale of the collection provided that the museum was able to fund itself and contribute money towards paying the city's pension obligations, which are a major source of debt. In January, museum officials said in a statement that they would push their fundraising capabilities to the outer limits and beyond, hoping to raise $100 million to join forces with the roughly $375 million already being contributed to the museum by a number of private institutions and fundraising groups in an effort to keep the museum doors open and the collection intact.

Posted on January 17th 2014 on 03:22am
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