Making Government Work

How a $300 Million Donation Kept These Classic Artworks in Detroit

January 15, 2014
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How a $300 Million Donation Kept These Classic Artworks in Detroit
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
The Detroit Institute of Art almost had to sell off these masterpieces to lift the city out of debt.

The Detroit Institute of Art is home to some of finest works in America. But with the city embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings, some creditors are arguing that it’s not an “essential municipal asset.” If they have their way, many of the institute’s most valuable pieces, some of which were recently valued north of seven figures, would go on the auction block.

MORE: How soda cans and computer fans keep Detroit families warm.

But a recent $300 million donation, pooled from the Ford Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and others, will help Detroit pay off its pension debts, allowing the Institute of Art to hold onto its collection. Below are the works that received the highest valuations from Christie’s auction house in December; they would’ve been the first ones to go.

1. “The Wedding Dance” ($100-200 million), Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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2. “Self Portrait with Straw Hat” ($80-150 million), Vincent van Gogh

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3. “The Visitation” ($50-90 million), Rembrandt

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4. “Le guéridon (the Window)” ($40-80 million), Henri Matisse

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5. “Danseuses au foyer (Dancers in the Green Room)” ($20-40 million), Edgar Degas

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6. “Gladioli” ($12-20 million), Claude Monet

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7. “Scheme for the decoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel” ($12-20 million), Michelangelo

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8. “Tobias and Three Archangels” ($8-15 million), Neri di Bicci

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9. “Madonna and Child” ($4-10 million), Giovanni Bellini

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MORE: Why don’t more poor kids get to see art?

All images courtesy Detroit Institute of Art.

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