Saving Detroit's Art From The Auction Block

In a bankrupt city of such well-documented woes as blighted houses, broken streetlights and persistent crime, few issues have galvanized Detroiters like the possibility that their art museum could be stripped of its treasures.

That prospect became quite real after the city's emergency manager was given the legal authority to explore selling pieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts to help settle the city's nearly $18 billion debt. A Christie's appraisal of the city-owned works pegged their value at $454 million to $867 million, which would--if they were sold--help shore up city retirees' endangered pensions.

To avert that outcome, a group...

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