and Due Diligence

Provenance and Due Diligence

The National Gallery of Australia is committed to acquiring and exhibiting works of art only in accordance with the highest standards of due diligence, which is the thorough assessment of a work of art and its current and past ownership to evaluate its authenticity and to identify and appraise any gaps in or concerns about its provenance. The Gallery also considers cultural sensitivities, ethical and professional practice, and applicable laws and conventions. In accordance with its policies and procedures, before acquiring a work of art or entering into any loan arrangement the Gallery conducts background research to ensure that it is operating on terms that are ethical, honourable, responsible and transparent to public scrutiny.

Asian Art Provenance Project

We are currently undertaking a provenance review of the existing collection of Asian art. As works of art are researched, their collecting histories are published here.

European and American Art Provenance Research Project

We investigate the whereabouts and ownership of every work of art in the collection that is presumed to have been in Europe between 1933 and 1945, the years of Nazi rule and occupation. These works of art are listed here.

Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan

Works borrowed from overseas will usually be subject to the provisions of the Commonwealth Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan Act 2013 which generally prevents an item from being seized, forfeited or subject to a suit while it is in Australia. Currently protected loans are published here.

Art Enquiries and Claims

If you wish to make a claim or enquiry about a work of art in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia on loan to us, or if you want additional information about a work, please follow the Art Enquiries and Claims Handling Procedure.

How to read provenance information

Provenance charts the changes in ownership of a work of art. It depends on documents such as wills, archives, receipts, auction sales and dealers' records. Otherwise, the ownership can be discovered by research such as tracking down publication in exhibition or auction catalogues, memoirs of the artist, or the recollections of art-lovers. It is extremely rare to find an unbroken chain of possession since, for example, confidentiality may be a condition of sale.

Unbroken links between owners are indicated by the terms:

  • by descent = family inheritance
  • by inheritance = bequest of the previous owner
  • when = sold on that date to the new owner
  • from whom = passing directly to the next owner

Other terms include:

  • acquired = either bought by or given to the new owner in unknown circumstances
  • with = in the hands of an art dealer, either deposited for sale on behalf of the owner, or bought by the firm for resale
  • through = a firm was the agent for the sale, but was not necessarily the owner of the work

For more detailed information on policies relating to acquiring and exhibiting works of art at the National Gallery of Australia, see: