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Frequently asked questions about the Art Collection

Parliament House Art Collection staff moving a painting

What is the Parliament House Art Collection?

The Parliament House Art Collection comprises works commissioned under the Parliament House Art/Craft Program, the Historic Memorials Collection, the Rotational Collection, the Official Gifts Collection, and the Parliament House Art Collection Archive. More information about the collection is available here.

Which objects are on public display?

The Parliament displays many objects of national significance, including, the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, the Yirrkala Bark Petitions and the Women’s Suffrage Banner by Dora Meeson.

Important artworks you can see when you visit include ‘The Big Picture’ by Tom Roberts and the Great Hall Tapestry after Arthur Boyd. There are also portraits of Prime Ministers and Parliamentary Presiding Officers from the Historic Memorials Collection on public display.

Our temporary exhibition program also regularly features works from our collection.

How are portraits commissioned?

Portraits of Prime Ministers, Speakers of the House of Representatives, Presidents of the Senate, Monarchs and Governors General, as well as other distinguished individuals are commissioned as part of the Historic Memorials Collection. Portrait commissions are generally completed within three to five years of the sitter leaving office, but this can depend on the availability of the artist and the sitter.

What kinds of works are acquired for the Rotational Art Collection?

The contemporary art and craft in the Rotational Art Collection reflects aspects of Australian culture, character, and identity. Principal architect Romaldo Giurgola thoughtfully considered the display of this collection in his vision for the building. Collecting started in 1984, with excellent examples of Australian contemporary art and craft practise selected. Much of the collection, over 2800 works of art, was acquired between 1985 and 1987. These works are on display throughout the general circulation areas of Parliament House and in Senators’ and Members’ offices. The collection continues to grow each year with the acquisition of works by contemporary Australian artists. These works are purchased directly from the artists or their nominated art centre, gallery, or agent. This approach ensures the authenticity of the pieces in the collection and allows us to forge relationships with artists across Australia. The Art Advisory Committee approves acquisitions. The Committee includes the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, their deputies, and an advisor from the National Gallery of Australia. The Committee meets twice a year to consider a list of prospective new pieces, which is prepared by the Department of Parliamentary Services. 

Can I search the collection online?

We are currently undertaking a major project to digitise our collection and eventually make it available online. In the meantime, you can see highlights from our collection on the Art at Parliament page.

Who decides which works of art are hung in the parliamentarians’ offices?

Parliamentarians can select works from our collection for their offices at Parliament House.

Can I donate an artwork to the Collection?

The Official Gifts Collection consists of gifts presented to the Australian Parliament and the nation. The collection forms a record of Australia’s national and political history, reflecting the Parliaments’ relationship with other nations, and Australian states and territories. The acceptance of gifts is at the discretion of the Presiding Officers. Official Gifts must meet strict criteria and have long‐term historical and display value as significant records of the Parliament.

Gifts that might be considered for donation must be from:
• the Parliaments and governments of Australian states and territories,
• the Parliaments and governments of other nations, or
• selected international and national community service organisations.

Gifts of artworks are occasionally accepted for the Rotational Collection. These gifts must meet strict criteria set by the Art Advisory Committee. Gifts directly from artists not already represented in the collection are generally not accepted. The Parliament is not a registered cultural organisation and does not participate in the Cultural Gifts Program.

Please email us for more information about donating to the collection.

Can I stage an exhibition at Parliament House?

Parliament House has an active temporary exhibition program, and occasionally hosts externally curated exhibitions. All exhibitions are subject to approval by the Secretary, DPS. Exhibition proposals should be addressed to the Director, Art Collections, and received at least 18 months prior to the proposed exhibition start date.

Please email us for more information about exhibitions at Parliament House.

How do I request the loan of works from the collection?

The Parliament House Art Collection lends artworks to a range of institutions across Australia for temporary displays and exhibitions. To request a loan, please email us or mail your request to:

Director, Parliament House Art Collection
Department of Parliamentary Services
PO Box 6000
Canberra ACT 2600

Your request should include:

  • the name and address of the borrowing institution,
  • your exhibition title and display dates,
  • full citations for each work you would like to borrow,
  • contact details of the person responsible for loan arrangements, and
  • your agreement to pay all costs associated with the loan, including crating, freight, and insurance.

If you are seeking to borrow work for a travelling exhibition, please also provide:

  • the proposed venues and display dates, and
  • contact details for the responsible person at each venue.            

How do I request a reproduction from the collection?

The Parliament House Art Collection can supply images of collection items for publishing, research, and educational purposes. To request an image, please email us a completed copy of our Reproduction and Publication Request form.

Please note that unless your use falls under 'Fair Dealing' exceptions listed in the Australian Copyright Act 1968, you are required by law to clear the copyright and provide written proof of permission obtained from the copyright holder. If the work is by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artist, you may also be required to obtain Cultural permissions for this use. We can assist you with contacting the copyright or moral rights holders should it be required.

How to contact?

Contact us by email or post:

Parliament House Art Collection
Department of Parliamentary Services
PO Box 6000
Canberra ACT 2600

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