In a ruling much anticipated by members of the philanthropic community across the United States, a Pennsylvania court has ruled that the private art collection owned by the Barnes Foundation - said by some to the most valuable in the country worth somewhere between $6.5 and $30 billion - may be moved from its current home in suburban Merion, PA to a new location in downtown Philadelphia. Albert Barnes, who died in 1951, had specified that his collection was to remain in Merion, and was to be displayed in a particular fashion, but the court essentially overruled his intentions in the name of preserving the Foundation and the integrity of the collection over the long term. In a press release the Foundations' Board of Trustees expressed "great excitement" over the ruling, which was also applauded by Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. A group of Barnes Foundation art students who had sought to block the move may yet appeal. The President of the Foundation Board offers his perspective on the move and the circumstances of the Foundation here [PDF]. A 2002 summary of the Foundation's original petition to move is online here. The New York Times has more.
This Times story (from the International Herald Tribune) is really interesting reading to get some of the back story behind this move:
"Barnes would never have imagined the constraints the foundation is currently facing." He had described the foundation as a place for "plain people, that is men and women who gain their livelihood by daily toil," she said. By moving the collection from an affluent suburb to downtown Philadelphia, she said, more of those "plain people" will be able to enjoy the art.