Automakers pledge $26 million to save Detroit art

Chrysler U.S. Sales head Reid Bigland, GM product development chief Mark Reuss, and Ford Executive Vice President Joe Hinrichs pictured today in front of The Detroit Industry fresco by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

Photo credit: REUTERS
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DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- The Detroit 3 automakers said they will contribute $26 million to help save Detroit’s art masterworks from the auction block.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC said they will put the funds toward the settlement of the city’s record $18 billion bankruptcy. The contributions were announced at a news conference today at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The DIA said the $26 million consists of $10 million from Ford, $5 million from GM, $5 million from the General Motors Foundation and $6 million from Chrysler.
 
“Two words describe what’s been happening in the last few months: comeback and partnership,” said Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. “This is something that’s never been done before at this scale.”

The announcement, at which the governor was joined by museum and company officials, follows a $195 million state contribution lawmakers approved last week to help the city regain its footing and shield the institute by converting it to a nonprofit museum. Protection of the collection is a key component in a $661 million aid package to reduce cuts to pensioners as part of the city’s settlement plan before a federal bankruptcy judge.

The plan originally called for $816 million from the state, foundations and the museum. Lawmakers rejected Snyder’s proposal to give the city $350 million spread over 20 years, authorizing the one-time payment of $195 million instead.

In return, the city-owned museum building, grounds and collection would be converted into a nonprofit organization. The institute’s daily operations are already in the hands of a nonprofit.

The museum’s potential value became the focus of a battle over selling assets to satisfy creditors. Christie’s Inc. appraised about 2,800 pieces at between $454 million and $867 million. Some creditors have clamored to appraise the entire 66,000-piece collection.

Not included in the Christie’s appraisal was the museum’s signature work, “Detroit Industry,” a 1933 series of frescoes by Mexican artist Diego Rivera in an indoor court. The largest mural is 75 feet long and 17 feet high.

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