The owner of a painting by Charles Frederick Goldie has applied to take the work overseas.
The Ministry of Culture and Heritage has confirmed an application has been made and it is considering the request.
The process of deciding whether protected items can be exported is set out in the Protected Objects Act 1975.
The manager of heritage operations at the ministry, David Butts, said the chief executive was required to consider specialist advice about the painting from at least two experts.
Mr Butts said each application was considered on its merits and the chief executive could either grant or decline export permission, and may impose conditions on the export if it was approved.
The ministry has not told RNZ which Goldie painting was being considered, and Mr Butts said a final decision was yet to be made on the application.