Remembering Peter McLeavey


Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa – ka nui te mihi ki a koutou,

It is with great sadness that the team at City Gallery Wellington acknowledge the death of one of our most well-loved and significant gallerists, and art champions, Peter McLeavey.

Like many other galleries in New Zealand, City Gallery has had a long association with Peter, exhibiting many of the artists he has represented over the years, most recently with Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology (6 December 2014 – 15 March 2015). We even made Peter the subject of an exhibition at the time we were all reading Jill Trevelyan’s wonderful biography on him with an exhibition called McLeavey Sat Here (5 April – 15 June 2014).

I remember with huge affection my early days as a young curator, receiving his idiosyncratic type written letters (with their hand marked corrections) accompanied by Hockney-like photographic collages of art works he thought the gallery might be interested in acquiring. Buying art from Peter in person was an equally distinctive experience. Even if you knew exactly what you wanted, Peter would slowly reveal all manner of work before you got to see the one you thought you were there to see. There was not so much a sense of diffidence about the way he would sell one of the art works so precious to him, but rather a kind of reluctance to part with them. It was always an experience that got you thinking that much harder about what it was you were buying and why.

His pioneering work as a dealer, the contribution he has made to New Zealand’s art world, and the many individuals he has supported and for whom he has been a huge influence, is an extraordinary legacy – nevertheless, we are all going to miss him.

The City Gallery team extends its aroha to Hilary, Olivia and the extended McLeavey family at this sad time.

Ngā mihi nui Elizabeth

(Elizabeth Caldwell is the Director of City Gallery Wellington)

Image: courtesy of Luit Bieringa