The Lack of Hoof Beats–UPDATE

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The Daily Beast is reporting that the city council of bankrupt Detroit is planning on giving 45 million dollars to billionaire (2.7 billion net worth) Michael Ilitch so he can build his Detroit Red Wings a new super duper stadium.  Never mind that the city is flat broke, Mr. Ilitch must have a new stadium for his team and can’t be bothered to actually pay for it himself with his own money or from the profits of the team.  Where does this picture leave the pictures at the Detroit Institute of Arts?

Sadly, it’s clear how the city has fallen so far down.  When a priceless collection of art may have to be sold to pay the bills the city council doesn’t care to pay while these same council members take what little money the city has left to give to a billionaire for a sports team that can easily pay for itself, just defies comprehension.

Meanwhile, Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner is reporting that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers has spoken out to oppose the sale of the art.  Weingarten says the art collection will be a boon to the city once is recovers.  One wonders how the city can recover with its current city council?  Hopefully, more people will follow Weingarten’s lead and speak out in support of this wonderful collection before it’s too late.

It seems the hoped for sound of the hoof beats of a mighty steed galloping to rescue the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts may eventually be heard.  However, they won’t actually be coming to save the art. They will be trampling it on the way to see the hockey game in its fancy new digs.

Original story here.

A Lack of Hoof Beats

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“Politicians don’t bring people together. Artists do.” Richard Daley, Former Mayor of Chicago (from

When news of the financial demise of the city of Detroit began leaking out, the fate of the magnificent collection of the Detroit Institute of Art came into question. Many were hoping for a knight in shining armor atop a mighty steed to come galloping to the rescue to save this wonderful collection. When there is no money left for basic services, there is definitely no money for art.

The New York Times reports that the court has approved the official bankruptcy proceedings but so far nothing specifically was ruled on the fate of the D.I.A.’s art. Randy Kennedy, reporting for the Times, discusses the response by Judge Steven Rhodes. “A one time infusion of cash by selling an asset,” he (Rhodes) said, would have only delayed, “the inevitable financial failure” unless it could also have come up with a sustainable way to enhance income and reduce expenses, reports Kennedy. In other words, any money from the sale of the art will only throw more feed in the trough to quickly be gobbled up like everything else in the city’s coffers. Somehow, someone will have to say enough is enough and hold those accountable who created this mess. Until that happens, any infusion of cash by the sale of the art will just be flushed away with the rest of the city’s assets.

Sadly, this wonderful collection could be broken up and sold to collectors all over the world. Should that be the final outcome, hopefully, the sale can be justified and utilized in a beneficial manner and not treated as more slop for the trough. The collection is estimated, so far, to be worth between one and two billion dollars. If the collection is broken up and sold off, most if not all may disappear forever into private collections never to be seen by the public again.

The politicians have created the mess in Detroit. Possibly, art could save Detroit. There is still time for a knight in shining armor to come riding to the rescue of the Detroit Institute of Art, but so far no hoofbeats have been heard. At this point, it doesn’t seem likely that any will be. It may be too late for the art or the city to be saved.

*Photograph shown is from The New York Times and taken by Joshua Lott for Reuters

The Case of the Destitute Granddaughter

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“They always say time changes things, but you always have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol (from Artpromotivate)

One of the most famous paintings by Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875) is The Angelus, originally titled Prayer for the Potato Crop. The painting was commissioned in 1857 by American collector, Thomas Gold Appleton. When Appleton failed to take possession of the painting, the artist changed the name and later exhibited it in the Paris Salon of 1865 with the new name. In later years, the painting became the subject of several controversies not the least of which concerned the living situation of Millet’s family and especially that of one of his granddaughters.

Perhaps the most bizarre of the controversies surrounding The Angelus was instigated by Salvador Dali. Dali claimed Millet had intended hidden meaning in the position of the figures suggesting aggression on the part of the female figure and more. The basket situated between the figures, Dali believed was an over-painting of what was a child’s coffin originally. Dali stirred the controversy so much that eventually an x-ray revealed there had actually been a box of some kind in the under-painting though whether or not it was a coffin is unknown.

The artist, before his death, had sold the painting for a small sum. A decade later, a bidding war broke out between the US and France elevating the price of the painting considerably. The Louve attempted to purchase the painting sparking feelings of patriotism among the French people at the time. Varying accounts give the price the painting sold for as between 553,000 and 800,000 Francs.

Meanwhile, the artist’s family was sinking into abject poverty. While the bidding war and other factors were increasing the value of the painting, the artist’s family was reduced to a position of barely scratching out a living. The painting was again, in later years, sold for a huge sum of money. At the same time it was discovered that the artist’s granddaughter was selling flowers on the streets of Paris to sustain herself.

The plight of the granddaughter led to the enactment of the first “droit de suite” laws in France. The law basically said that an artist or his heirs until 70 years after his death were entitled to a small percentage of the resale of any of the artist’s works. While the dealer made millions, the artist or his family would receive between 1 and 3 percent of the sale. The granddaughter’s flower vending led the French government to consider whether visual artists were entitled to profit further from their works after the original sale. Millet’s granddaughter has once again come to the center of the debate as more governments today are considering “droit de suite” laws. The destitution of Millet’s granddaughter has led to a look at the destitution of many of today’s artists.

For more on Millet, his work and “Droit de Suite” laws, check out the following links:

Visual Residual!!!

Musicians, writers, and actors are all paid residuals or royalties when their work is resold in another format or another venue.  Visual artists are not.  The starving artist mime continues to be true of visual artists.  Not to say all musicians, writers and actors are receiving residuals but they all have the potential to work toward that goal.  Visual artists do not.  A writer can hope for publication in hardback, paperback, and possibly in film, as well as residuals with each book sale.  Musicians can look forward to multiple sales of recordings.  Actors can look forward to syndication, reruns and more.  Visual artists can hope for a one -time sale and maybe increasing value of the one-time sales.  Some may profit from licensing of their work.  That’s basically it for visual artists though a living can be made from these avenues.  But compared to other art forms it is minimal.  That is why so many famous visual artists have died destitute while their art is worth millions.

A push has been on for sometime in Europe to see visual artists paid more in line with artists of other art forms.  The galleries and dealers have pushed back hard.  Some have feared art sales will be moved to countries without these laws.  My question for these fear mongers is, “Did this happen with the other art forms?”  Have actors, writers and musicians moved to countries with out artistic property rights?  The answer is no.  Fear mongering is just fear mongering.

These laws are called “droit de suite” laws.  So far some basic forms of this law have passed in some European countries.  Great Britain has enacted a “droit de suite” law very recently.  One has been brought up in the United States Senate once and was dropped in committee.  A new “droit de suite” bill is in the works.  The Art Newspaper has the full report.  I urge you to follow the link and learn about what could be a vital lifeline for visual artists!  And after you have armed yourself with the meaning of “droit de suite” and what it can mean to you, CALL AND WRITE YOUR SENATOR!  And while you’re at it, CALL AND WRITE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TOO!


Its time to get paid for your vision!

“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision”.  James McNeill Whistler (from


For more on Droit de Suite here are some links:

Here are links to what actors and musicians get paid:

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