With its new building scheduled to open in Philadelphia next spring, the Barnes Foundation has met another challenge to its impending move from suburban Lower Merion, Penn. On Monday, Montgomery County Orphans' Court Judge Stanley Ott presided over a hearing requested by a citizens group that argued he didn't have all the evidence when he approved the museum's relocation of its multibillion-dollar art collection in 2004.
The Friends of the Barnes Foundation said Ott was misled by the actions of the attorney general's office, which has oversight over charitable trusts and had "failed to serve as a neutral party." The "Friends" group is still trying to keep the collection intact and unmoved, according to the will of museum founder Dr. Albert Barnes, who died in 1951.
Ott had determined years ago that the citizens group has no legal standing in the case, according to the Barnes Foundation attorney. (The ongoing struggle over the renowned collection of Impressionist to modern art masterpieces was well-documented in the 2009 film, "The Art of the Steal.")
The foundation closed the doors to its neo-classical house museum in June.
The Barnes' move into Philadelphia is seen by some as a boon to the city's expanding "Museum Mile" of cultural attractions that will aid in the maintenance and accessibility of the collection. Pew Charitable Trusts, The Lenfest Foundation and The Annenberg Foundation offered $150 million for the Barnes to build a new gallery and an endowment when the relocation to Philadelphia was approved.
A ruling is expected in about one month.