Portrait of Postman Roulin (c) Vincent van Gogh
Portrait of Postman Roulin (c) Vincent van Gogh


Have you been following the controversy in Detroit? The city is struggling financially and one of the options on the table is to auction off some of the treasures at the Detroit Art Museum, including work by van Gogh, Matisse, and Renoir. Apparently the city actually owns the artwork.

As you can imagine, the response is overwhelming. Many city leaders, art lovers, donors and citizens are deeply upset (see this MSNBC piece, Van Gogh for sale? Cash-strapped Detroit might sell off museum treasures or NPR’s Detroit Museum Not The First To Consider Selling Out).

In a Bloomberg opinion column, Detroit’s Van Gogh Would Be Better Off in L.A., however, columnist Virginia Postrel, writes:

Parochial interests aside, however, great artworks shouldn’t be held hostage by a relatively unpopular museum in a declining region. The cause of art would be better served if they were sold to institutions in growing cities where museum attendance is more substantial and the visual arts are more appreciated than they’ve ever been in Detroit. Art lovers should stop equating the public good with the status quo.

What do you think? Short sighted or simply good business? Should art go where, as Postrel says, it will be more appreciated?


Share your thoughts in the comments.