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Christie's check of Detroit's art done in October

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COREY WILLIAMS | October 4, 2013 09:29 AM EST | AP


DETROIT — DETROIT (AP) — Christie's is expected to finish appraising the most noteworthy city-owned works at the Detroit Institute of Art by the end of the month, Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager said Thursday.

The New York-based auction house expects to finish a general assessment of the remainder of the roughly 3,500-piece collection by the end of November, Keyvn Orr told business and civic leaders at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon.

The state appointed Orr in March to fix Detroit's finances. Before filing for bankruptcy protection this summer, he told museum officials that creditors may seek to claim assets such as the artwork to satisfy some of the city's debt, which he has estimated is at least $18 billion.

Despite Christie's assurances that it would recommend ways for the city to make money off its artwork without losing ownership of it, many Detroit-area art lovers are worried that pieces could be sold off.

Orr has said there was no plan on the table to sell any city assets. Still, museum officials are concerned.

"We have asked to see the Christie's contract with the city and they have not shared it with us," said Annmarie Erickson, DIA's executive vice president and chief operating officer. "There are a lot of things that are frustrating. This is just another one. But we do what we have to do to continue being a great museum."

Some of the works in Detroit's collection are likely worth a fortune, and whatever happens to the collection, the city certainly needs money.

Orr defaulted on $2.5 billion of the city's unsecured debt in June. Another general obligation bond debt payment was missed this week. Unsecured debt is debt that is not tied to a city revenue stream.

"The debt service is unacceptable and unserviceable. We can't do it," said Orr.

The city's bankruptcy petition was filed July 18 in federal court. Orr said Thursday that he pushed forward with the filing because his window to fix the city's finances is small. His 18-month contract with the state started in March.

Soon after he took the job, Orr was named in various lawsuits to overturn his appointment by Gov. Rick Snyder. Lawsuits also were filed challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

Orr said Thursday that those suits threatened to consume the time he needed for Detroit's restructuring and had a role in his decision to file for bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy filing gives "us an opportunity to have a structured environment with federal court supervision," he said.