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Loans Out Policy

November 2020

We are currently unable to process new requests for loans between 2021 and 2023 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 paper provides an overview of the policy for making loans to other organisations.

1. Introduction

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

The 2010 National Strategy set 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. National Portrait Gallery National Strategy.

2. Scope

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

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

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.

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 Adviser and approval at Curatorial Meetings are scheduled into a three yearly cycle of renewal.

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

  • Arrangements with partner organisations

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

The Gallery’s three long term regional partners: Montacute House (National Trust) and Beningbrough Hall (National Trust) each have a substantial number of long term loans showing the parts of the Collection in their period settings. Short term loans are also lent to collaborative exhibitions and are shown as works ‘in focus’. The display of works at these venues may change on an annual basis.

Partnership arrangements are also in place with galleries in the North East Region and the South West region and fall into the category of long term loans, short term collaborative exhibition loans and works ‘in focus’.  

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
  • Touring exhibitions organised by the National Programmes team in conjunction with regional museums
  • Exhibitions organised by the National Portrait Gallery Exhibitions team which may contain works from the Gallery’s Collections. Exhibitions and Displays Policy
  • 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

Loans will be formally agreed at Curatorial Meetings, chaired by 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

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).



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 Committee 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.


All borrowing institutions must comply with the National Portrait Gallery Standard Conditions of Loan 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:

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 Adviser approves all loan venues prior to loans being formally agreed.

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.

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.

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


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). 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

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.

The National Portrait Gallery does not charge for loans made to UK borrowing institutions. Under certain circumstances however the costs of preparation or conservation of loans may be passed on to Borrowers either fully or in part.

A charge will be made to institutions outside the UK at a rate of: -

£1200 per venue for loans of 1-5 items

£1800 per venue for loans of 6 or more items.

For loans of 15 or more items, the NPG may calculate costs to reflect the administrative work required.

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

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.


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

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

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.


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 Curatorial Meeting feels that the work does not fit into the context of the exhibition
  • if the Curatorial 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

4. Due diligence

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). National Portrait Gallery - Due Diligence policy.

5. Responsibilities

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:

The Director has overall responsibility for agreeing loans on behalf of The Board of Trustees

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

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

The Head of Exhibitions and Collections Management has input into the discussion with the Loans Registrar prior to Curatorial Meetings and makes recommendations at the Curatorial Meetings

The National Programmes Manager is responsible for planning and developing the National Strategy with new and existing partners

The Loans Registrar leads on the management of the loans programme

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

The policy will be reviewed in 2023.


The UKRG Facilities Report  UKRG Facilities Report

The UKRG Security Supplement  UKRG Security Supplement

NMDC Loans between Nationals and Non-nationals

Claire Greenaway
Loans Registrar
November 2020 

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