Detroit, the largest US city to file for bankruptcy, has drafted in Britain's auction house Christie's to value its art collection in a bid to shore up cash for its financial restructuring.
Officials revealed that the city would pay $200,000 (£130,500, €150,700) to a branch of the London-based auction house for valuing its part of the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) museum. Christie's is expected to complete the appraisal by mid-October.
"Christie's was asked to assist due to our expertise in this area across all fine art categories and eras," it said in its statement.
"In addition we will also assist and advise on how to realize value for the City while leaving the art in the City's ownership."
The move increases the possibility that the bankrupt city may sell some its artwork to help pay its creditors, even though Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr said that the city has no plan sell off its 60,000-piece collection.
Orr, who oversees the city's finances and bankruptcy, said "this valuation, as well as the valuation of other city assets, is an integral part of the restructuring process."
"It is a step the city must take to reach resolutions with its creditors."
The DIA, founded in 1885, is billed as one of the US' most comprehensive and diverse museums in the country.
Its valuable collections include Egyptian statues, Caravaggio's 1598 masterpiece, "Martha and Mary Magdalene," and Auguste Rodin's bronze "The Thinker." It also has an 1887 self portrait of Vincent van Gogh and a 27-panel fresco by Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
It is currently housed in an ornate Beaux-Arts style building in the city's cultural hub and gets at least 400,000 visitors per year. The collection is believed to be worth billions of dollars.
After Detroit filed for bankruptcy on 18 July, the museum officials hired an attorney to represent its legal interests. They noted that the city could not force the museum into a fire-sale situation because its collection is held in "public trust".
The museum officials were reportedly disappointed with the move.
"Any sale of the collection would be incredibly detrimental to the future of the museum," said DIA's executive vice president Annmarie Erickson, cited by the Wall Street Journal.
But she said the museum plans to cooperate with Christie's appraisal process.
Valuation of Other Assets
Detroit has become the largest city in US history to file for municipal bankruptcy. The city, once America's automotive powerhouse, owes $18.5bn to thousands of creditors.
As part of the bankruptcy, the city's creditors have been demanding Detroit to come up with a value for its assets.
In addition to the museum, other city assets including the water and sewerage department as well as the city-owned airport, parking garages and other real estate are expected to be valued by outside consultants.