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Wednesday, 18 February 2015 11:56

Paris’ Musée Maillol Closes Indefinitely

It is a sad 20th birthday for the Musée Maillol in Paris, which shut its doors indefinitely this weekend. The museum has posted a message on its website that says the closure is due to planned renovation work, but there is more to the story. On February 5, the company that manages the museum, Tecniarte, filed for bankruptcy.

According to court filings, with only €11,000 in cash in its coffers, Tecniarte could not possibly cover its €3.3m debt, which is “due immediately.” The list of creditors has not been made public and the foundation that runs the museum has declined to comment since the bankruptcy filing.

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Following a seven-year legal battle over a Sandro Botticelli painting "Madonna and Child" (1485) that was caught up in the collapse and ensuing bankruptcy proceedings of Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, rulings by two New York judges last month have resulted in the painting—worth an estimated $10 million—being returned to its rightful owner, Panama-based Kraken Investments. Ronald Fuhrer, a Tel Aviv-based dealer and advisor to Kraken, confirmed to artnet News that he had retrieved the painting on behalf of the investment firm on December 8. At various times, it looked as though the painting would be classified for legal purposes as gallery collateral and thus one of the assets that should be sold to repay creditors, despite the owners insistence that it had merely been loaned for a show.

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Citing a sluggish art market, Delaware Art Museum leaders now expect to raise only $19.8 million by selling three works of art.

That amount is enough to retire the museum's construction debt from a 2005 facilities expansion. But it's not enough to replenish the museum's endowment, or reserve fund, which helps a nonprofit institution weather economic downturns.

Facing an October deadline from creditors, the museum board voted last spring to sell up to four artworks in its 12,500-piece collection to raise $30 million to repay the construction debt and replenish the endowment, which had been depleted for years to cover operational expenses. After exhausting fundraising efforts, officials said the museum was in danger of shutting down.

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A new expert appraisal of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection, which some creditors are demanding be sold to help pay municipal debts in the city’s bankruptcy case, has found that the works could be worth $2.7 billion to $4.6 billion.

The appraisal, commissioned by the city and the museum in advance of a federal bankruptcy trial in August, also added that such a price tag would never be attained at sale, for reasons including donor lawsuits that would delay or prevent the sale of many valuable works, weakness in the market for some kinds of paintings, and lower sale prices because of the sheer bulk that would flood into the market at once. The appraiser, Artvest Partners, an art investment firm based in New York, said that because of these factors and the notoriety of such a forced sale from a venerable public institution, the bulk of the museum’s collection might raise as little as $850 million.

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As legal jockeying continues in Detroit’s bankruptcy, the city and the Detroit Institute of Arts have jointly hired a New York art investment firm whose personnel could be called as expert witnesses to push back against creditors trying to force a sale of art in court.

Artvest Partners, a well-known company that advises attorneys, dealers, insurers, other art world professionals and collectors, has been engaged to provide a price range for the entire 66,000-piece collection at the city-owned DIA and assess the viability and practicality of selling art or otherwise monetizing the collection, said Bill Nowling, spokesperson for Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

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General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are driving into Detroit’s bankruptcy reorganization by pledging $26 million to help support retiree pensions while keeping the city’s art treasures off the auction block, officials announced Monday.

The money will go toward city pensions and will be part of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ $100 million commitment to what’s being called the “grand bargain” to resolve the largest public bankruptcy in U.S. history. It’s helping keep city-owned pieces in the museum off the auction block as some creditors demand they be sold to pay off some of Detroit’s billions in debt.

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Creditors in Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy have engineered a new appraisal aimed at putting the Detroit Institute of Arts' entire collection in play as a possible chip to maximize the amount the city will be obligated to ante up for debt repayment.

The Detroit News reports that, at some creditors’ behest, the city’s bankruptcy managers have begun trying to place a value on the museum’s entire 66,000-piece collection. That’s quite an escalation from a previous appraisal of only about 1,700 works that the DIA had bought with city funds.

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Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled Thursday that he won't allow some of Detroit's largest creditors to remove art from the walls at the Detroit Institute of Arts in order to inspect and appraise the art as part of the city's bankruptcy.

The creditors had argued that doing so would let their outside experts help determine the artworks' value.

Rhodes also denied the creditors' motion seeking access to up to a million additional pages of historic documents about the art housed at the city-owned museum. However, Rhodes said he would allow creditors to work with DIA officials to allow access to artwork in storage at the museum.

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The $816 million art-for-pensions deal that is designed to preserve the Detroit Institute of Arts collection is fascinating, imaginative and clever. But it’s almost certainly illegal. And I’ll show you why.

Were it legal, the deal would help solve two very big problems. The first is Detroit’s radically underfunded pensions, which are at least $3.5 billion in the hole, by the reckoning of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Simple economics says that Detroit needs to slash these obligations. But the pensions are not lavish, and thousands of retired Detroiters depend on the pensions for their daily bread.

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The W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced that it will donate $40 million to a fund established to help save the Detroit Institute of Arts’ finest works from being sold at auction and avoid cuts to municipal pensions. The fund, which was created after the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy in July 2013, now totals $370 million. Detroit is currently over $18 billion in debt and creditors are seeking repayment.

Following the bankruptcy filing, Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, asked Christie’s to appraise the 2,781 city-owned works housed in the Detroit Institute of Arts. The auction house estimated the works to be worth anywhere from $452 million to $886 million. The Institute has opposed any sale, stating that its art is held in a charitable trust and cannot be part of any auction to help pay for Detroit’s substantial debts.

The Kellogg Foundation, which was founded in 1930 by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg in Battle Creek, Michigan, provides funds for the promotion of the welfare, comfort, health, education, and safeguarding of children and youth, regardless of sex, race, creed or nationality.

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