Collection loans

We are currently unable to process new requests for loans between 2021 and January 2024 as we are at capacity with our existing national and international programme, and the completion of our Inspiring People project. We apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time. For loan requests after this date please contact the Loans Registrar, Claire Greenaway [email protected] or see below for details of our loans policy.

Borrowing from National Portrait Gallery Collections

The National Portrait Gallery holds one of the world's largest and most distinguished collections of portraits.
The Gallery aims:

to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and ... to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media

The Gallery is fully and actively committed to giving access to its Collections to as wide an audience as possible, for the purposes of enjoyment and study.

Requests to Borrow from National Portrait Gallery Collections

To further the Gallery's aims, loan requests will be welcomed which:

  • broaden access to the Collection in new ways and reach new audiences
  • add to the appreciation and understanding of the Collection and raise its national, international and public profile
  • promote a wider understanding of portraiture, and use portraiture to promote interest in British history, arts and science
  • contribute to distinctive exhibitions which have a well thought through proposal
  • support academic research.

For further information about borrowing from Gallery Collections, please contact:

Claire Greenaway
Loans Registrar
[email protected]

For enquiries relating to the Gallery's National Programmes, please contact:

Laura Down
Head of National Programmes
[email protected]

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin's Place
London WC2H 0HE

Loan conditions
Loans Out Policy

Who Can Borrow?

Loan requests will be welcomed from:

  • museums and galleries
  • educational institutions
  • public and charitable bodies, for use in specific buildings and sites where public access can be guaranteed
  • commercial organisations, where and when appropriate, where public access can be guaranteed.

Loans are not made to private individuals.

Prospective borrowers should clearly show how the loan of a requested item would meet the criteria set out under Requests to Borrow from National Portrait Gallery Collections (above).

Types of Loan Arrangements

Exhibitions (Single and Multi-Venue), Loans and Displays

Consideration will be given to requests for loans to the following categories of exhibitions:

  • exhibitions and displays which allow a work or groups of work to be understood in a different context by audiences
  • exhibitions and displays which contain strong educational content
  • exhibitions and displays which make an academic contribution to their subject
  • exhibitions and displays which publish a well-researched catalogue
  • research loans: for scientific and technical analysis, examination, comparative work, illustration or educational purposes

The Gallery will not normally lend to tours of more than 3 venues, or to tours which last more than 12 months, as extended tours place items at an increased risk of damage.

Long Term Loans

Requests may be made for items to be lent to individual institutions for long-term display on a renewable basis (see How Long Can a Loan Be? below) and on the clear understanding that the lent items will be viewable to members of the general public either permanently or by arrangement.

As part of the Gallery's national programme loans of works which have not been on display or on short-term loan are actively encouraged

How Long Can a Loan Be?

All loans will be for a fixed period, preferably stated clearly by a prospective borrower in their initial request.

The maximum period for any loan is 3 years. Loans may however be re-requested for an additional period subject to review.

How Is a Loan Agreed?

Loans will be formally agreed at Curatorial Meetings, chaired by the Director, if the prospective borrower is able to demonstrate that:

  • the loan will meet the Gallery's objectives (see Requests to Borrow from National Portrait Gallery Collections above)
  • the work will fit into the context of the exhibition
  • the exhibition proposal is well thought through
  • the environmental and security conditions at the proposed loan venue can be met

The meeting will also consider whether:

  • the condition of the work has been assessed by the Conservation team and is fit to lend
  • the work has any commitments to a specific Gallery initiative or display that may clash with the request

All loans made from Gallery Collections are subject to Loan Conditions (see below).

Loan Conditions

Please refer to Gallery's Loan Conditions.

The Gallery reserves the right to vary loan conditions from time to time and according to the special circumstances of individual loans.

What Will a Loan Cost?

The Gallery charges a loan fee to lend to overseas venues and very occasionally to UK venues (for example, to cover the costs of materials used in the preparation of loan items).

A borrower will also be asked to meet the costs of:

  • transport of the loan
  • insurance of the loan
  • any courier costs, where required (see Couriers below)
  • packing materials, where conservation requirements for the safe transport of the work are necessary
  • reproductions for the loan

The Gallery does not normally pass on to borrowers staff costs or conservation costs.

In the event of the late cancellation of a loan by a prospective borrower, the Gallery will pass on those costs already incurred in relation to the preparation of the loan to the prospective borrower.


A Gallery staff member may be required to travel as a courier with loaned items, to oversee transport and handling:

  • if an item is fragile or requires special handling or installation
  • if a journey is particularly long, complicated or hazardous or with unknown transport agents
  • if an object is of extreme rarity or high value.

There may be further reasons for sending a courier, please seen the Loans Policy for further details.

Borrower's must pay all courier expenses, including appropriate travel, accommodation and subsistence costs (see What Will a Loan Cost? above).

Couriers are official representatives of the Gallery. They are authorised to withdraw items from loan if, in their reasonable opinion, handling and installation arrangements, or environmental and security conditions, do not meet those specified in a loan agreement or set out by a borrower in their Facilities Report.

How to Borrow

Prospective borrowers should submit a formal request in writing to the Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

Prospective borrowers are encouraged to also make informal contact with the Gallery to discuss proposed loans. It is best to contact the Loans Registrar or the National Programmes Manager (for general or administrative matters), or relevant period curators (for advice on selection of works, alternative versions of portraits etc.).

Loan requests, particularly those for touring exhibitions or for large numbers of items, should be received as far in advance as possible, and no less than 9 months before the proposed commencement date of the loan. The Gallery will, however, make every effort to accommodate late requests where possible.

Requests should provide full details about the purpose of a loan or exhibition theme, explaining clearly how requested items fit into a proposed venue, display context or exhibition concept. Prospective borrowers should make as strong a case as possible for the loan of items.

Request should refer to specific items held in the Gallery's Collections (including through reference to accession number, if known, object name, or artist name and title). Reference should be made, where possible, to other items proposed to be included in an exhibition.

Information about exhibition venues should be included (preferably by means of a standard Facilities Report), along with opening and closing dates of exhibitions. In the case of touring exhibitions, all venues and dates should be listed along with the name of the organisation with overall responsibility for the loan.

Loan requests will usually be acknowledged within 14 days of their receipt. If the Gallery has not previously lent to a venue or institution, it may ask for a completed UK Registrars' Group Standard Facilities Report (a questionnaire aimed at identifying potential problems in lending certain types of objects to a prospective borrower, and encouraging discussion of possible solutions).

The Gallery may also request independent security reviews of prospective venues.

Agreements to lend are made by the Director of the National Portrait Gallery, in consultation with curatorial and conservation colleagues (see How Is a Loan Agreed? above). Borrowers will usually receive an agreement to lend (accompanied by detailed loan conditions) within 2 months of the receipt of their request.

Borrowers will be responsible for making practical arrangements for the transport, installation and de-installation of a loan, in consultation with the Gallery's Loans Registrar.