Tuesday, April 01, 2014

"Yes, communities benefit from famous paintings, but they also benefit from safer roads and better schools."

Cornell economist Robert H. Frank had a piece in Sunday's New York Times on Detroit and its art collection.

He urges us to look at both costs and benefits.  Take Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Wedding Dance," which could be worth $200 million by itself.  At a 6 percent interest rate (after rates "return to normal levels"), "the foregone interest on that amount would be approximately $12 million a year."  If the museum is open 2,000 hours a year, "the costs of keeping the painting on display would be more than $6,000 an hour."  If five people view it per hour, that's $1,200 an hour per visitor.  He guesses that "most taxpayers [would] think the same money could deliver much greater value if spent in other ways."

Michael Rushton, Director of Indiana University's Arts Administration Programs, says "those firmly against DIA selling art need to be able to respond to the arguments Robert Frank makes" -- but of course they'll do no such thing.  To the extent they even acknowledge the existence of his arguments (unlikely), they're more apt to call him names (repulsive Stalinist trickle down philistine) and try to figure out a way to sanction him.