1. The Detroit Institute of Arts is in trouble. There’s talk of selling off some of its most important works. This would raise money to pay off creditors and, maybe, to help pay off the pensions of city workers. Some of those creditors are very wealthy, others less so.
Some would have a bad taste in their mouths from it. They don’t enjoy getting their money by attacking an art museum. Others won’t care. Money is money.
The City of Detroit did not buy this art as treasure. It did not intend the art to stand as insurance against any future disaster. I doubt whether it crossed any of their minds at all. If it did, they probably laughed and shook their heads or muttered “Ah! No way…”
Yet now it seems as if some of the most loved works in our collection may soon be up for sale. If so, it may threaten the very existence of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
It’s not just about losing key works of art. There’s a sense that losing the art would set off a chain reaction of trouble and woe. If they’re only able to stay open one or two days a week, on weekends say, it’d be bad for the city as a whole. Why diminish or injure one of our prime attractions?
This would also be bad for other museums around the country. An attack on one art museum is an attack on all art museums.
I’ve long wondered whether this day would ever come. In my wildest dreams though, I never thought it could happen in my local art museum, less than a mile from my home.
2. Some of us are totally convinced that the current artistic system is flawed. An artistic system is the entire sphere of art and artists as they relate to the cycles of recognition and payment. As it is now, a few artists make a lot of money. Most of those who do, make a lot of money after they are dead.
Others eke out some sort of living through their creativity. They manage to survive without having to get a “day job.” Others work full-time at their normal jobs and struggle to work full-time with their art as well. It all seems to be rigged against the artist. This can be an annoyance. There are troubles and hassles yet you become accustomed to them. Sometimes it can be far worse. It can be cruel, exploitative and soul-killing. Sometimes the deck seems to be stacked against you. Under pressure, only the strongest, toughest and most determined stick to the creative path.
Artists suffer every day from the art-commodity system. Price tags are on everything, yet some people refuse to let you price their flesh, hearts and minds. We’ve been suffering from this for years. Even some of the most successful sense that things are not as they should be.
Now, if the museums and galleries start to suffer from it as well, maybe someday the system will change. If we all suffer, will we have the stupidity and timidity to grin it and bear it?
The art lovers and fans have their place in this too. They can act in solidarity with the artists and with the museums both.
Some of the artists have teeth! Will our anger over these attacks have any juice?
The state, federal and local governments all did serious damage to our city. Now that there’s trouble, the state and federal governments tend to blame it all on Detroit. They did their part to make a bad situation worse. NAFTA is only the most obvious example. Of course, our local government has often done us wrong too.
They really set us up for the fall and added to a bad situation. It finally got to the point where the people who were supposed to be helping us were hurting us. They stepped on us, kicked us and robbed us while we were down. Some feel sure that many of them got away with it. Well maybe not entirely so. As I write this, one of our former mayors is about to receive his prison sentence. Others have been caught and punished.
If the art work didn’t have this extreme “artificial value” they wouldn’t be trying to sell it to help the city. For many of us, its Wall Street value or auction value is usually of little concern. The art meets our gaze and it moves us. Now we’re forced to pay attention to the monetary value of the art. It’s come full circle and it’s too bad. Good luck! Some of us will stand with the D.I.A. as best we can and hope for the best, work for the best and fight for the best.
I got by this protest rally in front of the DIA last Friday: