Panel of Experts:
Ms Janine Bofill
Registrar, National Gallery of Victoria
Ms Charlotte Davy
Senior Exhibitions Registrar, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Mr Gary Dufour
Chief Curator & Deputy Director, Art Gallery of Western Australia
Ms Genevieve Fahey
Manager, Scienceworks Museum
Ms Carol Henry
CEO, Art Exhibitions Australia
Ms Susan Sedgwick
Manager, Exhibitions & Publication, Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales

Most collecting institutions are involved in the touring of exhibitions: some merely as recipients; others, as organisers and promoters of the shows. The touring of an exhibition is a complex legal transaction as the monetary value of the subject matter is often high and the rights and responsibilities of the participants are as complex as they are weighty. All participants are undertaking considerable risk and the primary risk management tools are the formal written agreements between:

  • the lender of the works and the organising institution;
  • the organising institution and the touring venues; and
  • the organising institution and the courier company.


17.1 Agreement between the lender of the works and the organising institution

This agreement contains many of the matters already dealt with in earlier chapters, relevant to the loan-in of exhibition material. That discussion will not be repeated here. The main additional factors relate to the fact that the loaned material will be part of an exhibition that will tour to venues other than that of the organising institution. Every time that material is moved, it faces an enhanced degree of danger. The touring loan agreement has to recognise those risks, make clear what degree of responsibility the borrower is undertaking to minimise those risks and set out a procedure that will be followed in the event that the loan material is endangered or damaged. In this way, the lender is fully informed and is assured that its property will be properly cared for. For its part, the lending institution knows the limits of its obligations, responsibility and legal liability.

The organising institution will make sure that the promises that it makes to its lenders will be mirrored in the agreements that it negotiated with the touring venues but, at the end of the day, it is the borrower – not the touring venue – that will be primarily liable to the owner of the loaned material. It can pass on the obligations but not the liability.


17.2 Agreement between the organising institution and the touring venues

The agreement between the exhibition organiser and the venues to which the exhibition will be travelling is both a primary tool for managing the risk inherent in the transaction and a document that facilitates the cultural purpose. The latter is important because, unless this is recognised, the agreement is seen as negative, formalistic and inhibiting. It shouldn’t be. Without it, neither party would be prudent to undertake the cultural purpose, such shows would be impracticable, and the public would be the loser.

All good touring exhibition agreements are essentially loan-out agreements with two distinguishing features: first, the loan is for a whole show, not merely individual items and second, at the end of the exhibition period at the venue, the show will move to another venue (or return to the exhibition organiser for dispersal).

What are the risks that arise as a consequence of the touring nature of the show? Essentially, they all come down to the fact that whenever an object is moved, it is at greater risk than when it is static. Accordingly, the primary issues that arise in touring agreements focus on:

  • the obligations of the venue to minimise risk to the loaned material;
  • the degree of liability that the venue has in the event of loss or damage to an exhibition material;
  • definition of the exact moment that the venue assumes that risk; and
  • definition of the exact moment when it is absolved of that risk.

Accordingly, the contract should clearly articulate the parties’ obligations of care; the procedures that must be complied with, the degree of care, the period of risk and what is to happen in the event that something goes wrong. So that responsibility for the condition of the material can be properly ascertained, it is a standard requirement that a condition report be undertaken every time that the loan leaves one venue and every time it arrives at another venue.


17.3 Checklist for loan-out for a touring of exhibition

Click HERE to view the checklist that Simpsons drafted for a public art gallery (hence its references to works rather than any other material). The principles are the same, irrespective of the material on loan, even if the detail differs. It is provided as an aide de memoire so that you can check that your loan agreement covers the important issues. As with all such checklists, it can never be exhaustive: You should build on this list and make it your own.


17.4 Agreements for loan-out and touring of exhibitions

(a) The NAME Contract

The Network of Australasian Museum Exhibitors (NAME) has drafted a model agreement for touring exhibitions.[2] Click HERE to view the N.A.M.E agreement.

(b) Questacon Travelling Exhibitions Agreement

Click HERE to view the agreement that is provided by the Commonwealth for loans of travelling exhibitions from the National Science and Technology Centre (NSTC). It is clearly very different in scope from those that would be used for the touring of art exhibitions.

(c) Regional galleries touring exhibition agreement

Museums & Galleries NSW has developed an agreement for the loan of art works for the purpose of organising art exhibitions that tour regional galleries. In this document the body of the agreement contains both administrative and legal content, and only the detailed description of the loaned material is contained in an annexure.

Because it relates to the loan-in of artistic works it contains clauses that relate to copyright and moral rights that may not be relevant to loans dealing with non-copyright material. Nevertheless, most of the agreement is also relevant to non-art loans.

As with all templates, it should be treated as the starting point; it should always be amended to suit the particular needs of each show. Click HERE to view the agreement.

[1]Because this is both professionally and legally contentious, it is prudent to include clear protocols in this regard. For example: ‘If the Exhibiting Gallery breaches any of its obligations of duty of care to any work, or the condition of a work so requires, the representative of the Lender Gallery may withdraw it from display. This will not be done without prior consultation with the Executive Director of the Lender Gallery and the conservation staff of the Exhibiting Gallery. In the event of any disagreement, the decision of the Executive Director of the Lender Gallery shall be final. A contemporaneous written record of those instructions shall be made by the Executive Director of the Lender Gallery. A copy of those instructions shall be sent to the Exhibiting Gallery and the Lender Gallery’s solicitor. A copy shall also be maintained for Lender Gallery records.’

[2] This contract may be downloaded from: http://discover.collectionsaustralia.net/name/.

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