We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Exhibitions development

1. Summary

The Art Gallery of New South Wales developed out of the New South Wales Academy of Art, established in Sydney on 24 April 1871. It was firmly founded on 19th-century ideals of public education and cultural enrichment. Today the Gallery has a rich and varied collection, encompassing Australian and international art. The Gallery and its functions are determined by the Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980. The principal objectives of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trust, outlined in section 7 of the Act, are to develop and maintain a collection of works of art and to propagate and increase the knowledge and appreciation of art. Facilitating access to and appreciation of art through the display of scholarly, inspiring and engaging exhibitions touring to NSW-based, national and international venues is critical to the Gallery’s functions.

Temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions are developed by the Gallery and approved in accordance with the powers afforded to the Gallery under the Act. Exhibition development and approval occurs within an accepted management framework. Exhibitions and the exhibition program are developed to offer interpretations of a broad variety of Australian and international visual art across a range of media and periods. Exhibitions and the exhibition program are focused on fostering and encouraging access for a diverse audience. Throughout the development process, the integration of relevant and innovative display techniques, online content, exhibition collateral and materials, public engagement and education programming and touring opportunities will be considered. The Gallery is committed to ensuring that all aspects of the development, planning, approval and management of exhibitions and the exhibition program are undertaken on terms that are ethical, accountable and sustainable. The Gallery is also committed to recognising the diverse expertise required to prepare, manage and mount exhibitions and will ensure that project teams reflect the contributions of representatives from all relevant Gallery departments. This policy sets out the principles the Gallery will adopt and factors it will consider when developing and approving temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the overall exhibition program.

2. Authority

This policy is established by the director and approved by the Board of Trustees pursuant to the Act.

3. Objective

The objectives of this policy are to:

a. ensure that the Gallery maintains its local, national and international reputation for excellence in the development, realisation and management of exhibitions

b. define the terms by which the Gallery develops and maintains a balanced and varied exhibition program, presenting innovative, scholarly and accessible temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions focused toward public engagement

c. establish a transparent, accountable, rigorous and collaborative approach to the development, evaluation and approval of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program

d. provide a framework to ensure the Gallery sustainably develops and manages its exhibition program in accordance with sound planning, financial and risk management principles.

4. Application

This policy applies to all activities relating to the development and approval of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the planning and management of the exhibition program.

5. Definitions

In this policy:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander art means artwork by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist or containing Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander themes or content. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is defined in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy.

  • Accession means the process undertaken that formally acknowledges an artwork to be part of the collection.

  • Acquisition means the process of obtaining valid title to an artwork, in accordance with the Art Acquisitions Policy.

  • Acquisitions and Loans Committee means the Board of Trustees sub-committee established to review and confirm the acquisition of artworks and the deaccessioning of artworks from the collection, as well as reviewing and approving requests for outgoing loans and long-term incoming loans from the collection in accordance with the Art Gallery of New South Wales 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 Gallery property and have been formally accessioned. The collection also includes other material acquired and accessioned by the Gallery for the purpose of research and enhancement of the collection, including the National Art Archive and study collection. National Art Archive collection means the sum of the institutional archive and the collected archives held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Study collection comprises works of art designated for the purpose of study or research that support or relate to works of art or artists in the collection. The study collection is a sub-category of the collection and works are accessioned.

  • Collection exhibition means an exhibition of works of art that is largely drawn from the Gallery’s collection and may include incoming loans and/or commissions. A collection exhibition has a stated curatorial rationale and location and may or may not have a finite display period. Collection exhibitions are managed within established exhibition management frameworks and a specific project budget. Collection exhibitions may be accompanied by a publication, online content, performance elements and associated public engagement and education programs and other exhibition collateral.

  • Curator means the person responsible for the interpretation, study and development of the collection and the conceptualisation, research, development and presentation of collection, touring and temporary exhibitions, and the curation of display changeovers. Curators conduct original research and develop new scholarship that contributes to the advancement of the body of knowledge within their field and within the broader community of art museums.

  • Director means the director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

  • Display changeover means the periodic rotation or change of selected artworks on display. Display changeovers may occur in order to remove selected works required for outgoing loan; inclusion in collection, temporary or touring exhibitions; or for conservation, photography or other Gallery programs; or in order to introduce new works into existing displays.

  • Due diligence means the thorough assessment of an artwork to evaluate its authenticity, ownership and provenance and to identify and assess any gaps in the provenance.

  • Exhibition approvals meeting means the management committee meeting of the Exhibition Executive to approve temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions.

  • Exhibition development team means the working group established to advise and input into the development of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the preparation of the exhibition brief. It is facilitated by the head of exhibitions, with content led by the curator(s), the exhibition manager and heads of department or their assigned delegate.

  • Exhibition Executive comprises the director, deputy director, director public engagement, head of exhibitions, head of Australian art, and head of international art.

  • Exhibition manager means the person responsible for facilitating exhibition development, exhibition budget management and production management of exhibitions. Touring exhibitions are managed by the touring manager.

  • Exhibition program means the current and forward schedule of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions.

  • Gallery means the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

  • Incoming loan means any contracted arrangement for the transfer of possession of an artwork or other material to the Gallery on a temporary basis under which the transferor grants a temporary right of possession to the Gallery. It therefore includes loans in the strict legal sense of gratuitous bailments, bailments that arise from contracts that expressly benefit both the Gallery and the party transferring possession and other sharing arrangements, such as a scheduled rotation of possession among co-owners.

  • Major exhibition assessment means a pro forma assessment of ticketed temporary or touring exhibitions with an expenditure over $1.5 million approved at the exhibition approvals meeting. This assessment is prepared and tabled for the Board of Trustees’ review.

  • Online exhibition means an exhibition of works of art displayed online that may include works drawn from the collection, incoming loans and/or commissions. An online exhibition has a defined curatorial rationale, title and location, and is managed within an established exhibition management framework and a specific project budget. Online exhibitions may also be accompanied by performance elements and associated public engagement and education programs and other exhibition collateral.

  • Provenance means the history of ownership of an item from the time of its discovery or creation to the present day, from which authenticity and ownership is determined.

  • Temporary exhibition means an exhibition of works of art that may include works drawn from the collection, incoming loans and/or commissions. A temporary exhibition has a defined curatorial rationale and a finite display period, title and location, and is managed within an established exhibition management framework and a specific project budget. temporary exhibitions may also be accompanied by a publication, online content, performance elements and associated public engagement and education programs and other exhibition collateral.

  • Touring exhibition means an exhibition of work(s) of art that may include works drawn from the collection, incoming loans and/or commissions that the Gallery tours to other venues. A touring exhibition may originate as a temporary exhibition displayed in-house, or may be developed from inception for the purpose of display at other venues. A touring exhibition has a defined curatorial rationale and title and is managed within an established exhibition management framework within a specific project budget and under contractual arrangements with the borrowing venue(s). Touring exhibitions comprising a single work are distinct from outgoing loans in that they have a distinct curatorial rationale, title and exhibition management framework and are displayed at multiple venues as part of a coordinated tour program rather than on the basis of isolated loan requests. Touring exhibitions may be accompanied by a publication, online content, performance elements and associated public engagement and education programs and other exhibition collateral. Touring exhibitions comprising works of art valued above director-delegation loan limits must be approved by the Board of Trustees through the Acquisition and Loans Committee.

  • Touring exhibition working group means the group of exhibition registrars, exhibition managers, collection registrars, conservators, installation staff and curators who meet to assess touring exhibition proposals for feasibility and risk. The working group is chaired by the touring manager.

  • Trustee means a member of the Board of Trustees of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

6. Policy

This policy will continue to align with the Gallery’s strategic plan.

  • Overall Gallery strategy and direction that informs the Gallery policy

  • Types of media considered as part of policy

Other considerations into the policy

6.1 Development of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program

The Gallery’s exhibition program encompasses temporary and collection exhibitions at the Gallery site, designated off-site projects and touring exhibitions to venues nationally and internationally. The exhibitions program is a fundamental means by which the Gallery realises its objective to propagate and increase knowledge and appreciation of art as listed under section 7 of the Act.

In developing and managing temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program, the Gallery will ensure the following principles are adopted:

a. Exhibitions will demonstrate curatorial scholarship, innovation, integrity and museological excellence.

b. Exhibitions and the exhibition program will present original, varied, scholarly and creative interpretations of art.

c. Temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program will be developed in accordance with international and national museum standards and ethics in relation to exhibition content, interpretation, display and access.

d. Temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program will reflect the Gallery’s place within a global context and perspective, paying particular attention to fostering and strengthening partnerships and connections across New South Wales and nationally and within Asia and the Pacific region. Exhibitions and related programming and materials will also reflect the Gallery’s tourism, education and public engagement priorities.

e. The Gallery’s commitment to a consultative curatorial process for the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art exhibitions will continue to be demonstrated in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy and similar consultation and engagement practices will be undertaken with other communities where possible and relevant.

f. Excellence in exhibition design, display and presentation techniques will be demonstrated.

g. The exhibition program will facilitate and foster access and engagement for diverse audiences through a mix of paid and unpaid exhibitions, as well as innovative interpretation, display techniques, online content, programming, exhibition collateral, social media, marketing and archived exhibition information and content on the Gallery’s public website.

h. Opportunities for local, national and international touring will be a consideration in the development of temporary exhibitions. The Gallery will also seek to conduct touring exhibitions with a variety of appropriate small and large institutions and in particular within regional New South Wales.

i. Public engagement programs, media, marketing and exhibition collateral will reflect and embody the principles guiding the development of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program.

The Gallery will manage temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program in a sustainable, responsible and resourceful manner, including:

a. the strategic use of human, material and financial resources

b. the consideration of whole of business priorities and commitments as part of individual exhibitions and exhibition program planning and development

c. the strategic management of risks

d. the implementation of sound financial management practices at all levels of exhibition development, planning and management.

The Gallery respects the skill, expertise and knowledge of its staff and actively encourages and seeks to foster temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions developed by the Gallery’s curatorial staff. The Gallery also recognises the contributions of external parties and accepts, and in some instances will seek, exhibition proposals from outside its own curatorial staff.

The Gallery recognises the diverse expertise required to develop, manage and mount temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and will ensure exhibition project teams reflect the professionalism of relevant departments.

The Gallery actively seeks opportunities to engage in partnerships and collaborations locally, nationally and internationally to develop temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and related publications, public engagement programs and online material.

6.2 Development of content for temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program

In considering the content of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program, the Gallery will ensure the following principles are adopted:

a. The content of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program will be considered in a local, state-wide and Australian context, as well as in a broader global perspective. 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.

b. Australian and international art, with both historical and contemporary content in a wide range of media, will be reflected in the exhibition program.

c. Artworks from the collection will be contextualised and interpreted within the framework of the wider collection, as well as in relation to artworks on incoming loan and/or commissions.

d. A consultative approach will be employed in relation to the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art exhibitions and the incorporation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art into all temporary, collection or touring exhibitions in accordance with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy and Procedures.

e. The importance of the annual Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes is acknowledged and will continue to be developed and supported.

6.3 Approval of exhibitions

Temporary, collection, online and touring exhibition proposals are approved by the Exhibition Executive at the exhibition approvals meeting and the decisions of the Exhibition Executive will be minuted. Touring exhibitions above director-delegation limits must be approved by the Board of Trustees through the Acquisition and Loans Committee.

Display changeovers will be approved by the head curator. Scheduling and resourcing of display changeovers will occur within established procedures and frameworks.

Temporary, collection, online and touring exhibition proposals may be accepted from internal and external sources and all preliminary proposals will be presented for consideration by the Exhibition Executive. Touring exhibition proposals will be assessed by the touring exhibitions working group before being presented to the Exhibition Executive. Preliminary proposals should outline the curatorial ambitions for the exhibition and provide indicative information about its scope and scale. Preliminary proposals are considered on their merit, taking into account the principles and terms of this policy. Any proposals that are not approved for further development will be acknowledged in accordance with established procedures.

When a preliminary exhibition proposal is approved by the Exhibition Executive for further development, an exhibition brief will be prepared by the curator and exhibition manager in consultation with the exhibition development team and in accordance with established procedures. The exhibition brief is expected to reflect draft or indicative information only, including: draft exhibition content and proposed incoming loans; draft programming and public engagement strategies; a draft outline of collateral material; draft touring strategy; and draft budget and risk assessments.

The exhibition brief will be presented for further consideration and in-principle approval by the exhibition executive.

If the exhibition brief is approved in-principle, initial provenance assessment for proposed incoming loans will be undertaken and requirements for further investigation identified, in accordance with the Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures and the Incoming Loans Procedures. The following staff members will assess provenance and determine requirements for further investigation before approving to proceed:

a. Incoming loans for temporary and touring exhibitions – the director or her/his delegate, in consultation with the Exhibition Executive.

b. Incoming loans to the collection – the director or her/his delegate, in consultation with the head curator, senior curator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art where appropriate and deputy director.

Due diligence investigation, risk assessment and decision-making will be undertaken and documented in accordance with the Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures.

Once the exhibition brief is approved, temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions will be incorporated into the forward exhibition program and managed in accordance with established procedures and protocols.

The exhibition brief will be further developed by the curator(s) and exhibition manager in consultation with the project team and will include: a detailed concept proposal and comprehensive checklist including details of all proposed incoming loans; budget; design drawings; production schedule; marketing, sponsorship and programming strategies; touring strategy and confirmed venues; and risk assessment.

If required, the following staff members will assess the findings of further due diligence investigations, in accordance with the Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures, and details of community consultation, in accordance with the Incoming Loans and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures:

a. Incoming loans for temporary and touring exhibitions – the director or her/his delegate, in consultation with the Exhibition Executive.

b. Incoming loans to the collection – the director or her/his delegate, in consultation with the head curator, senior curator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art where appropriate and deputy director.

The outcomes of these assessments will be reflected in the final concept proposal.

The outcomes of these assessments will be reflected in the concept exhibition brief and will be presented for approval by the director and in consultation with the Exhibition Executive. In the instance that further due diligence investigation has been identified as being required, this will be carried out and assessed in accordance with the Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures. Loans will only be approved for inclusion in an exhibition once due diligence investigations have been completed and approval to proceed has been reached.

The decisions of the Exhibition Executive will be minuted and decisions about provenance and due diligence investigations will also be documented in accordance with the Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures.

6.4 Approval of the exhibition program

The exhibition program is approved by the director or her/his delegate at the meetings of the exhibition executive and the decisions of the exhibition executive will be minuted.

Exhibition budgets are presented to the Audit and Risk Committee as part of the budget cycle. Ticketed exhibitions with expenditure in excess of $1.5 million are subject to a major exhibition assessment and are prepared and tabled for the Board of Trustees’ review. In general, the exhibition program is developed on a 2–5 year forward-planning basis. Due to the interdependent nature of exhibition development, planning and scheduling, elements of the exhibition program will alter over the projected period.

The exhibition executive will monitor and implement strategies to address any concerns that may arise due to changes in scheduling or programming.

The exhibition program budget is developed to provide a range of exhibitions, both ticketed and free admission. Evaluation of expenditure and income is monitored throughout the program and the delivery of individual projects, in accordance with established reporting procedures.

The exhibition program will be documented and communicated to relevant staff by the head of exhibitions, consistent with established procedures.

6.5 Transparency and accountability

6.5.1 Official publication of temporary exhibition listings

The director will ensure that a list of all temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions is published in the Gallery’s annual report.

6.5.2 Record keeping

In accordance with the Record Keeping Policy and established procedures, staff will maintain records (paper based and/or electronic) for each exhibition and the exhibition program, documenting relevant information and decision-making.

6.5.3 Internal audit and review cycle

The director will ensure that compliance with this policy is assessed as part of the Gallery’s audit program. The policy will be reviewed by the Board of Trustees on a regular basis in accordance with the Gallery’s audit program.

6.5.4 Staff obligations

Members of the exhibition development team and exhibition executive should declare any conflict of interest in the development of exhibitions and this conflict should be actively managed.

Staff involved in determining the content, development and management of exhibitions must declare any conflict of interest, including in the selection of works, touring venues, contractors or suppliers. The declared conflict will be noted by the relevant team and minuted by the exhibition executive. The staff member must exclude themselves from any discussion or decision in relation to matters in which they have a declared interest and their absence will be minuted.

Gallery staff involved in the assessment, approval and administration of temporary, collection, online and touring exhibitions and the exhibition program are bound by the Gallery’s Code of Ethics and Conduct and other relevant Gallery policies, including, but not limited to, the Conflict of Interest Policy, Gifts and Benefits Policy, Fraud Control Policy and Record Keeping Policy.

7. Responsibilities and compliance

7.1 Board of Trustees and Acquisitions and Loans Committee

The Board of Trustees is responsible for the review of major exhibitions as set out in the terms of this policy.

7.2 Executive and staff

The director and deputy director are responsible for ensuring that the process and documentation relating to exhibitions conform to all Gallery policies and that Gallery staff understand and comply with the policies.

8. Related documents, legislation and useful links

8.1 Gallery policies

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Policy

  • Conflict of Interest Policy

  • Corruption Prevention Policy

  • Gifts and Benefits Policy

  • Incoming Loans Policy

  • Outgoing Loans Policy

  • Provenance and Due Diligence Research Policy

  • Record Keeping Policy

8.2 Guidelines, procedures and associated documents

8.2.1 Gallery guidelines, procedures and associated documents

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Procedures

  • Code of Ethics and Conduct

  • Exhibition Development Procedures

  • Incoming Loans Procedures

  • Provenance and Due Diligence Research Procedures

  • Risk Management – Statement of Intent

8.2.2 National and international guidelines, procedures and associated documents

  • International Council of Museums, Code of Ethics for Museums, 2017

  • Museums Australia, Code of Ethics, 1999 (under review)

  • Pacific Islands Museums Association, Code of Ethics for Pacific Museums and Cultural Centres, 2006

8.3 Legislation

8.3.1 Commonwealth of Australia

  • Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013

  • Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Regulation 2014

  • Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986

  • Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulation 2018

8.3.2 New South Wales

  • Art Gallery of New South Wales Act 1980

  • Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009

  • Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998

  • Public Finance and Audit Act 1983 Parts that remain to be renamed Government Sector Audit Act 1983

  • Public Finance and Audit Regulation 2015

  • Government Sector Finance Act 2018

  • State Records Act 1998

This policy is also informed by the traditions and precedent set since the establishment of the Gallery.