The British Museum, whose director is Glasgow-born Neil MacGregor, is planning a show lasting at least six months if Glasgow City Council's bid to change the rules governing Sir William Burrell's bequest – revealed in The Herald last week – is successful.
When the shipping magnate gifted his collection to Glasgow, he stipulated he would not allow any works to be loaned overseas in case they were damaged in transit.
But in 1997 the council won a costly and controversial battle to change Sir William's 1944 Deed of Gift and so allow art from the 8000-piece collection to be seen by a wider audience.
But despite the Parliamentary Commission ruling in the council's favour, two vital factors were not resolved – the need for a parliamentary bill to change the bequest and the full support of the trustees.
The trustees have now backed the plans and if a bill being promoted at the Scottish Parliament is passed – which could happen by the autumn – the international exhibitions could take place from 2016.
The tour was mooted because the building in Glasgow's Pollok Park, which has housed the collection since 1983, requires a major refurbishment and this will lead to the museum's closure between 2016 and 2020.
If the tour goes ahead, it will start in London. The British Museum plans to show items from the Burrell Collection in a room close to its prestigious King's Library space for at least six months.
A spokeswoman for the British Museum said: "We have had preliminary discussions with colleagues at the Burrell Collection about the possibility of temporarily displaying a selection of objects from the Burrell Collection in 2016."
A spokesman for Glasgow Life, which runs the city's museums and galleries, said: "Discussions about a tour are still at an early stage, but given our already strong partnership with the British Museum, we would like to draw on their wealth of knowledge and expertise in delivering significant redisplays of important collections.
"Staff have already been at the Burrell Collection to give advice and support.
"If we achieve our ambitions with regard to a refurbishment and amendment of lending restrictions, it would be a real coup for Glasgow to secure an exhibition within the British Museum – and provide the perfect platform ahead of an overseas tour."