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Art acquisitions policy for the collection



1. These procedures are established by the Director and approved by the Trust pursuant to the Act.


2. These procedures come into effect on 24 June 2014.


3. Any pre-existing policy, direction or guideline issued by the Gallery is, to the extent that it deals with a matter that is the subject of these procedures, revoked.


4. The Director is responsible for interpretation of these procedures.


5. In these procedures,

  • Acquisition means the acquiring of works of art through gift, purchase, exchange or otherwise which become part of the collection of the Gallery.
  • Acquisition Proposal means a document that details all known information about a work of art that will be considered for acquisition. This proposal will also, if necessary, identify the potential funding for the acquisition.
  • Acquisitions and Loans Committee means the Trust subcommittee established to review and confirm the acquisition of works of art and any outgoing loan of works of art from the Collection as per the AGNSW Trust – Acquisitions and Loans Committee Charter.
  • Act means the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980.
  • Collection means works of art in various media that are Trust property.
  • Curator means the person responsible for researching and proposing art works for the Gallery’s collection.
  • Director means the Director of the Gallery and includes a person appointed as acting Director.
  • Gallery means the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
  • Trust means the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trust constituted by the Act.


Objectives of the procedures

6. These procedures set out the processes that the Gallery will adopt, and the considerations that the Gallery will take into account, when acquiring works of art for its collection.

7. The objectives of the procedures are

7.1. to ensure that the Gallery advances its mission and improves the collection,

7.2. to ensure that the Gallery negotiates and manages all acquisitions on terms that are ethical, honourable, responsible and visible to public scrutiny, on terms and conditions acceptable to the Gallery, and

7.3. to maintain the Gallery’s standing and reputation for collecting excellence in the perception of the public and the museum community, both nationally and internationally.

8. Those objectives are to be achieved by

8.1. ensuring that the Gallery acquires works of art that fit within the Gallery’s mission and its priority collecting areas, and are selected on the basis of significance of the artist and/or the specific quality of the works of art, and

8.2. enabling the Gallery to avoid any act or omission that compromises the Gallery’s position and reputation for integrity in public administration.


9. The development of the collection is essential to ensure that the Gallery remains a vibrant and living museum. The Gallery aims to acquire an ambitious range of works of art that capitalise on existing collection’s strengths in Australian and international art. The Gallery will continue its program of acquiring major works of art based on the following acquisition priorities for the collection and consistent with its mission. Particular emphasis will be given to the visual art of Australia and Asia or Pacific countries whose cultural traditions are of special interest to Australia:

Australian art (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art)

9.1. The Gallery has an outstanding collection of Australian art, with great strengths in the art of the late 19th century and 20th century. The Gallery will continue to acquire Australian art of all periods and in all media, with an emphasis on highly significant works that enhance our current holdings or fill gaps in the collection. Exceptional historic and modern art only rarely becomes available and the Gallery is committed to vigorously pursuing such priority works.

9.2. The Gallery has a small but distinguished collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. The exceptional early acquisitions continue to be built on through acquiring the finest recent works from across Australia. Central to this is the acquisition of major works by key artists to ensure the Gallery has a significant body of work by individual practitioners, as well as representing identified centres of artistic excellence. Acquiring significant earlier works to enhance and fill gaps in the collection is also a priority. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is one of the most vital areas of contemporary Australian art practice and building an exceptional collection in this field is central to development of the broader Australian collection.

9.3. The Gallery’s commitment to contemporary culture is demonstrated by the depth and breadth of its contemporary Australian art collection. The Gallery represents key art movements, thematic concerns and the work of individual artists through the acquisition of significant representative artworks. Contemporary art is the fastest growing area of the Australian collection, reflecting the energy and quality of contemporary art practice. Demonstrable support of living culture through collecting is essential to the Gallery’s role as a leading art museum.

International art

9.4. The international collection includes important works from the past and present, in all media, from throughout Asia, Europe and North America. The Gallery will continue to acquire international art from specific periods and appropriate media that enhance the current holdings. While exceptional historic and modern works may rarely become available, the Gallery is committed to vigorously pursuing such works.

9.5. The Gallery holds a significant collection of European art from the Renaissance to the mid-20th century. Great strengths are to be found in British art of the 18th-20th centuries, with some outstanding individual examples of European art in all media (painting, sculpture, photography, watercolours, drawings, prints and decorative arts). The Gallery is committed to enhancing these collections as opportunities arise with emphasis on works of international stature.

9.6. The Gallery has fine holdings from across the Asian region with particularly strong collections of Chinese and Japanese art. The Gallery aims to augment these by acquiring fine examples of historical art from both China and Japan. At the same time, the smaller South-East Asian and South Asian collections will continue to be developed with acquisitions of the highest calibre.

9.7. The collection of recent international art, which has great strengths in work from the 1960s onwards, will be developed to further enhance existing holdings. The Gallery represents specific art movements, thematic concerns and the work of individual artists. These will be added to with significant acquisitions in all media. A priority will be developing a stronger contemporary Asian collection and broadening that collection to include the art of West Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Acquisition process

10. When considering acquiring a work of art for its collection, the Gallery will practise, and be prepared to show that it has practised, the highest standards of professional diligence.

Establishing title and provenance

11. To establish the provenance of the work of art and the veracity of the title held the curator will carry out thorough research before proposing a work of art for acquisition to ascertain the following:

11.1. A critical evaluation of all gaps and discontinuities in the provenance information acquired about the work of art and all reasons that are given for such gaps and discontinuities, paying particular attention to gaps or periods that correspond to major wars, conflicts or periods of cultural looting (for example, but not limited to, Europe during the Nazi era 1933-1945)

11.2. Evidence that the artwork is not listed on the Art Loss Register or UNESCO Red List

11.3. If relevant, evidence that authorised representatives of relevant Indigenous communities have been consulted

11.4. For material not originating in Australia which is deemed a protected object in its country of origin:

Documentation or substantial evidence that the artwork was in Australia by 17 November 1970 (the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property); or

Documentation or substantial evidence that the work of art was out of its country of origin by 17 November 1970 and that it has been or will be legally imported into Australia; or

Documentation or substantial evidence that the work of art was legally exported from its country of origin after 17 November 1970 and that it has been or will be legally imported into Australia.

12. The curator will provide a report outlining the findings of the research to establish clean title and provenance to the Director and the Acquisitions and Loans Committee as part of their Acquisition Proposal.

13. Only in the following circumstances is there no requirement for provenance research to be undertaken by the curator:

13.1. a work of art is newly commissioned by the Gallery

13.2. the donor or vendor is the creator of the work of art

13.3. there is clear evidence that any prior wrongdoing in regard to the work of art has been the subject of a binding settlement, abandonment or other remission of liability, or that any claim relating to the work of art has been otherwise dealt with on terms that bind on all relevant parties and in circumstances that do not reflect adversely on the contemporary ethical status of the artwork.

Assessing physical condition and care required

14. The curator will obtain a condition report for any work of art proposed for acquisition, and will advise the Director and the Acquisition and Loan Committee via the Acquisition Proposal of any issues and associated costs concerning the condition and/or long term care of the work of art.

15. The curator will consult the Senior Collections Registrar in regard to the storage, movement, and/or any workplace health and safety issues for work of art proposed for acquisition where relevant, and advise the Director and the Acquisition and Loan Committee via the Acquisition Proposal of any issues and costs associated with the movement and long-term storage of the work of art.

Administration of acquisition process

16. In consultation with the relevant Head Curator, a curator will complete an Acquisition Proposal for a work of art that they identify as a collecting priority.

17. The curator will ensure that all the terms and conditions, requirements, or restrictions applicable to each acquisition are fully disclosed in the Acquisition Proposal and the way in which they will be satisfied and that they are acceptable.

18. All works of art considered for acquisition will be proposed by the Director to the Acquisition and Loans Committee. The Director, Curatorial will insure that all Acquisition Proposals have been correctly completed and signed by curatorial staff and will oversee the work of curatorial assistant to collate all Acquisitions Proposals for the meeting of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee.

19. The Director has delegated authority to approve Acquisitions with a purchase price of AUD10,000 and under and will notify the Acquisitions and Loans Committee by submitting a summary of approved works to the next Acquisitions and Loans Committee meeting.

20. All proposed acquisitions with a purchase price over AUD10,000 must be referred to the Director for submission to the Acquisitions and Loans Committee.

21. The Acquisitions and Loans Committee will consider the proposed acquisition on its merits, taking into account all of the terms and conditions of an acquisition outlined in the Acquisition Proposal, and their decision will be recorded.

22. The minutes of each Acquisitions and Loans Committee meeting will be ratified at the subsequent meeting of the full Trust.

Transparency and accountability

Publication of acquisitions

23. The Director will ensure that a list of all acquisitions is published in the Gallery’s annual report.

Record keeping

24. The curator must maintain a physical file for each new acquisition that documents the relevant information.

25. The curator will ensure that an electronic file for each new acquisition is maintained on the Gallery’s collection database.

Internal audit

26. The Director will ensure that compliance with these procedures is assessed as part of the Gallery’s audit program.

Trustee obligations

27. Members of the board of the Acquisitions and Loans Committee should declare any conflict of interest and this conflict should be actively managed.

Staff obligations

28. Gallery staff involved in the acquisition of works of art are bound by the Gallery Code of Conduct and other relevant Gallery policies, especially but not limited to the Conflict of Interest Policy; Financial Code of Practice; Gifts and Benefits Policy; Copyright and Image Reproduction Policy; and Fraud Control Policy.