After nearly a decade of lawsuits and bitter debate, the $20 billion art collection of French impressionist, post-impressionist and modern art amassed by a Philadelphia physician Dr Alfred C Barnes is on the move. When he died in in 1951 his will stipulated that the collection never be broken up or leave the two-story villa that houses it in suburban Merion. However, for 60 years the city's power brokers have manoeuvered to assert their vision to relocate it downtown to be positioned as a major tourist destination. The power struggle between the parties is recorded in the documentary The Art of the Steal, released in 2010.
The plan to relocate the collection to a new $150m gallery in downtown Philadelphia has won the day. The Merlion gallery closes today and while one more court hearing is scheduled for August at which a group called The Friends of the Barnes Collection will ask the court, once again, to order the collection to remain in Merlion forever, Barnes watchers believe the odds are against the group because the judge who will rule on the suit has previously decided it could move.
Images: Barnes Foundation, Lower Merion Township, Philadelphia; and a rendering of the Foundation's future home in downtown Philadelphia, due to open in 2012