Loans Out Policy

November 2023

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.

This is a policy for making loans to other organisations.

1. Introduction

1.1 The loans programme at the National Portrait Gallery plays an important role in helping the Gallery achieve its core aims. The objectives of the loans programme are outlined below:

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

1.2 The February 2023 National Portrait Gallery National Strategy sets out how the Gallery will work with partnerships to make the Collection accessible to museums and galleries around the country, through working with existing partnerships and developing new ones.

2. Scope

2.1 Loans from the National Portrait Gallery to other institutions are made from both the Primary and Reference Collections and are divided into four areas for consideration:

Short-term loans

2.2 For exhibitions and displays at venues around the UK and overseas. These fall into the following categories:

  • exhibitions and displays which allow a work or group of works 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

Long term loans

2.3 To galleries, museums and public buildings for display on a renewable basis. Lent items will be viewable to members of the public either permanently or by appointment.

2.4 All loan venues will be reviewed in terms of security, access and environmental conditions. Site visits to condition check the loans, assessments by the UK National Security Team and approval at Loans Group Meetings are scheduled into a three yearly cycle of renewal.

2.5 Six months’ notice must be given for the return of long term loans to the National Portrait Gallery.

Arrangements with partner organisations

2.6 The Gallery will have a number of partnerships involving loans (both short and long term) at any one time.

2.7 Partnership arrangements are also in place with galleries across the United Kingdom and fall into the category of long term loans, short term collaborative exhibition loans and works ‘in focus’.

2.8 Other partnerships with museums and galleries involving loans around the country are developed according to the Gallery’s National Strategy, for example, they may be linked to learning initiatives or collection developments. National Portrait Gallery National Strategy.

Touring exhibitions

2.9 Touring exhibitions organised by the National Programmes team in conjunction with regional museums.

2.10 Exhibitions organised by the National Portrait Gallery Exhibitions team which may contain works from the Gallery’s Collections. Exhibitions and Displays Policy.

2.11 Collaborative exhibitions curated from the Gallery Collection by partner museums and galleries relating to a particular project or initiative.

3. Criteria and Assessment of Loan Requests

3.1 Loans will be formally agreed at Loans Group Meetings, chaired by Chief Curator delegated from the Director, if the prospective borrower is able to demonstrate that:

  • the work will fit into the context of the exhibition
  • the exhibition proposal is well thought through
  • the loan will meet the Gallery's objectives (see 1.)
  • the environmental and security conditions at the proposed 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

3.2 The National Portrait Gallery welcomes loan requests, where public access can be guaranteed, from: museums and galleries; educational institutions; public and charitable bodies; commercial organisations (where appropriate).


3.3 Timescales: The Gallery requires as much notice as possible but no less than nine months’ notice for loan requests. Loans are initially considered at monthly Loans Group Meetings. Discussion includes the reasons given for requesting the particular works in the context of the exhibition, the condition of the work, the venue’s facilities, its security and environmental conditions. Loan requests will usually be acknowledged within three weeks of receipt and decisions are normally advised within two months, where possible.

3.4 Conditions: All borrowing institutions must comply with the National Portrait Gallery Standard Conditions of Loan National Portrait Gallery - Loan conditions National Portrait Gallery - Loan conditions and all borrowing institutions must be able to adhere to the UK Government Indemnity Scheme standards in order to ensure the protection of the national collection. The main areas for assessment are outlined below.

3.5 Security and Access: Each venue is assessed in terms of security as well as the arrangements for access by the public. A completed UK Registrars’ Group Standard Facilities Report is requested from the borrower. The Loans Registrar is responsible, through assessment of the Facilities Report, its Security Supplement and discussion with the borrower for ensuring that the venues can comply with the appropriate standards. The Loans Registrar ensures that the UK National Security Team approves all loan venues prior to loans being formally agreed.

3.6 Environmental Conditions: The National Portrait Gallery’s Conditions of Loan document outlines our policy on environmental conditions. Any issues surrounding a venue’s environmental conditions are discussed with the Collections Services team at regular internal Loans Meetings.

3.7 Insurance and transport: The borrower is responsible for organising the insurance and transport arrangements for the loan, which must be discussed and approved by the Loans Registrar. The transport of the loan will be organised by the borrower, with a museum approved fine art carrier who will confirm adherence to the transport guidelines at Annex E of the UK Government Indemnity Scheme Guidelines.

3.8 The Loans Registrar will arrange transport for loans to regional partner venues.

3.9 Costs: The Gallery charges a loan fee to lend as below to overseas venues only. UK venues will be charged where the loan cannot be supported by standard NPG loan preparation.

3.9.1 International venues: £300 per work, per venue. This will cover admin and standard conservation prep. Some loans might require specialist conservation work (see below).

3.9.2 Costs will be discussed with the borrower in the initial stages of the loan process. Borrowers are responsible for the following costs:

  • transport of the loan
  • insurance of the loan
  • any courier costs, where required (travel, accommodation and subsistence costs)
  • the packing costs of loans where conservation requirements for the safe transport of the work are necessary
  • Reproductions for loan

3.9.3 In addition to these costs, we may also charge the following at cost:

  • Loan Conservation preparation e.g. Framing, glazing, specialist conservator or requirements (this maybe quoted as a range depending on the work)
  • Specialist admin requirements

3.9.4 Prep costs where work(s) are added within 9 months of the exhibition opening and are therefore short notice.

3.9.5 The Gallery does not normally pass on staff costs or routine conservation costs to the borrower, although in some cases, when special conservation treatment is required, the National Portrait Gallery will ask the borrower to contribute.

3.9.6 No expense in connection with the loan shall be borne by the National Portrait Gallery.

3.9.7 In the event of the late cancellation of a loan or the withdrawal of a work 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.

3.9.8 Charges will be reviewed and approved annually by the Loans Group.

3.9.10 Charges will not be made for long term loan renewals, except for any costs associated with condition assessments required in the 3 year long loan period.

3.9.11 All charges and costs will be increased as necessary in line with inflation.

3.10 Couriers: The National Portrait Gallery adheres to the National Museum Directors’ Conference guidelines: Lending between Nationals and Non-nationals

3.10.1 Trained National Portrait Gallery members of staff will courier loans where the Loans Registrar judges that there is a requirement to do so. Reasons for sending a courier may include the following:

  • when 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
  • if the National Portrait Gallery has not lent to the venue previously and wishes to oversee handling or installation
  • where handling or installation is particularly complex
  • where there are obligations for insurance purposes
  • when an item is itself on long term loan to the National Portrait Gallery and is being lent out from the Gallery

3.10.2 In order to make the Collection as accessible as possible to borrowers, the National Portrait Gallery regularly agrees for works from the Collection to be couriered by other national institutions. In return, the National Portrait Gallery will often offer to courier other lenders’ works, thereby reducing costs for the borrower. The National Portrait Gallery will also use the option of virtual couriers where appropriate.

3.11 Refusal: It is the aim of the National Portrait Gallery to broaden access to its Collections. However, there are occasions when loans are refused. The main reasons for a refusal are:

  • if the Loans Group Meeting feels that the work does not fit into the context of the exhibition
  • if the Loans Group Meeting feels that the proposal does not have a strong enough argument
  • insufficient time allowed for loan consideration and preparation
  • if there are too many requests in a particular period
  • security or environmental conditions that cannot be resolved
  • the work has conservation issues or is too fragile to lend
  • the work is required for display at the National Portrait Gallery
  • there is no public access to the borrowing venue
  • there are ethical issues in lending to a particular venue
  • if there are financial concerns with regard to the stability of an organisation
  • the request is made within 9 months’ notice.

4. Due diligence

4.1 The Gallery carries out provenance checks on works coming in to the Collection, ensuring good title. The Gallery will not acquire, borrow or lend any works that have been illegally stolen, imported or exported out of their country of origin. The National Portrait Gallery adheres to the 1970 UNESCO Convention (on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property).

5. Responsibilities

5.1 Loans are presented to each quarterly Trustees’ Meeting. Since 2003, The Trustees have delegated the responsibility of loan decisions to the Director. Individual responsibilities are set out below:

5.2 The Director has overall responsibility for agreeing loans on behalf of The Board of Trustees. The Loans Group has delegated responsibility from the Director to agree to loans on behalf of The Board of Trustees.

5.3 The Chief Curator is responsible for the overview of the principles of lending and the impact on the displays and exhibitions programme.

5.4 The Curators discuss the loans with the Loans Registrar and are responsible for considering the loans at each Loans Group Meeting.

5.5 The Head of Collections Services has input into the discussion with the Loans Registrar prior to Loans Group Meetings and makes recommendations at the Loans Group Meetings.

5.6 The Senior Conservation Manager collates initial conservation assessments from the conservation team prior to the Loans Group Meeting and attends the Loans Group Meetings in order to advise on individual recommendations for objects.

5.7 The Head of National Programmes is responsible for planning and developing the National Strategy with new and existing museum and gallery partners, where standard loan charges do not apply.

5.8 The Loans Registrar leads on the management of the loans programme.

5.9 The Collections Services team work closely with the Loans Registrar in the preparation of items for loan. Fortnightly internal Loans Meetings are scheduled to discuss scheduling and the practical aspects of each loan.

6. Review

6.1 The policy will be reviewed every five years or as required by legislative changes.

Edward Purvis, Head of Collections Services
Approved by the Board of Trustees, November 2023
Date of next review: November 2028

Appendices (on request)

The UKRG Facilities Report UKRG Facilities Report

The UKRG Security Supplement UKRG Security Supplement

NMDC Loans between Nationals and Non-nationals