Delaware Art Museum to settle multimillion dollar debt

(File/WHYY)

(File/WHYY)

The Delaware Art Museum will soon be free and clear of its $19.8 million debt.

The museum’s board of trustees confirmed Tuesday that the balance will be paid in full next week, on Sept. 30. 

“Payment of this debt is a critical milestone in the history of the Delaware Art Museum,” says Delaware Art Museum CEO Mike Miller.

Proceeds from the sale of William Holman Hunt’s “Isabella and the Pot of Basil,” the recent private sale of Alexander Calder’s “Black Crescent,” and funds from the museum’s investment portfolio will cover the cost of the bond debt. 

In June, Christie’s auction house sold William Holman Hunt’s 1868 painting for close to $5 million. Confidentiality agreements associated with the private sale of Calder’s “Black Crescent” prohibited the museum from disclosing that sale price.  

Money made from the sales of Winslow Homer’s Milking Time and a possible fourth work, yet to be named, are expected to replenish the investment portfolio, museum officials said in a statement.

Polarizing decision

Issued in 2003, the $19.8 million dollar bond financed the museum’s expansion. Initially scheduled to be paid in full by 2037, the museum said a confluence of the recession and tighter credit standards required accelerated payments on the debt. 

Museum officials said they tried for years to satisfy the debt through fundraising, refinancing and strategic partnerships, but consistently fell short. 

In March,  the museum’s trustees unanimously voted to sell up to four works of art from the museum’s 12,500-piece collection to come up with the funds. It was a polarizing decision within the art community and resulted in the Association of Art Museum Directors sanctioning the Delaware Art Museum, as well as its loss of accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.

“This process has been excruciatingly difficult for everyone involved,” Miller said. “Thankfully, we have been bolstered and supported by our loyal Members and donors. We are so appreciative of the overwhelming support from our community.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.