The NGV has more than 70,000 Australian and international artworks in its collection, spanning thousands of years of history from antiquity to the present day.

Looking after the collection

Curators – experts in a particular area of art – look after the collection. Some specialise in an art form like photography or fashion and textiles. Others specialise in the art of a particular culture or time, such as Japanese art or contemporary art.

Choosing art for the collection

Curators together with other experts in the Gallery research and identify artworks to buy for the collection. They consider how the new artwork will build on what the Gallery already has of a particular artist or style, or fill a gap in the collection. 

Where artworks come from

The Gallery buys artworks from many sources including art dealers, auctions, private collectors and artists. People also donate artworks. In 2004, Melbourne art dealer Joseph Brown gave a significant collection of Australian art to the Gallery, now on permanent display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.

Who pays for the artworks?

The Gallery raises money to buy artworks, and as these are often expensive – especially if they’re considered rare or important – this is a crucial part of the Gallery’s work.

Donations and gifts are a significant source of funds. The Felton Bequest, which was left to the Gallery last century by businessman Alfred Felton, has helped the Gallery to build an internationally renowned collection and buy important artworks such as The Banquet of Cleopatra 1743–44 by Giambattista Tiepolo and The Pioneer 1904 by Frederick McCubbin.

The labels displayed with artworks in the Gallery include, where relevant, information about the funds used to buy the work, or if the work was a gift. These details often have interesting links to social and cultural history.

Short film: Art Detective

Zack talks to NGV Curator Ted Gott about solving the Louis Duffy mystery

View Art Detective film (5.06 mins)

Short film: Asian Collection

Ben talks to curators about early manga and sculpture from the Collection

View Asian collection film (8.00mins)

Short film: Indigenous Collection

Alex talks to Stephen Gilchrist about the NGV Australian Indigenous Collection

View Curating film (5.04mins)

Short film: Curating

Alex talks to NGV curators about their role in the Gallery

View Curating film (3.36 mins)