May 30, 2014

Auckland Writers Festival 2014: Peter McLeavey

Guest post by David Ashman, Preservation Manager, Auckland Libraries


I chose '08 - Peter McLeavey' from the programme of AWF events because I have worked with Jill Trevelyan, author of Peter McLeavey: the life and times of a New Zealand art dealer, and I had met Peter on a couple occasions and felt drawn to attend out of curiosity, conviviality and a sense of allegiance.

Rhana Devenport
What I hadn't realised until I had made my way down to the burrows of the Aotea Centre was that it was a panel discussion that included artists John Reynolds and Yvonne Todd and was chaired by Auckland Art Gallery Director Rhana Devenport.

What ensued was a lively and insightful discussion among three people who know Peter well, hold him in high regard and carry a swag load of affection and respect for the man.

This affection didn't prevent revealing Peter's sometimes less than flattering dark side, though it never steered into sensationalism or offensiveness.

It was revealed that Peter liked to be in control to the extent that you didn't buy art from Peter, he sold it to you, if he wanted to. John recounted his own story about having decided he wanted to buy a particular artwork by Laurence Aberhart and being taken by surprise to find himself negotiating with Peter for the right to write a cheque and bring the work back to Auckland.

John Reynolds
The panel continued in this vein with their own personal anecdotes, fond memories and sometimes bizarre stories that conjured up a picture of a man who was generous in his support of artists, committed to New Zealand art, and who had an idiosyncratic approach to business.

The session had begun with a clip from the documentary from a few years back called 'The Man in a Hat' and it ended with another tantalising glimpse from that documentary of a man not just in a hat, but also wearing a warm, thick and comfortable cloak of mana.

All three panelists and the chair provided an entertaining and highly informative hour that came to a close all too quickly and left me wanting to delve deeper into Peter's story; for that I will need to read Jill Trevelyan's highly regarded book.

And just when it all seemed to be over, a member of the audience stood up and revealed that he was Peter's nephew. As if to confirm Peter's need to be in control he recounted the story of how as an eighteen-year-old he had announced he would like to be an Art Dealer, like Uncle Peter. His mother telephoned her brother and asked if he would take Paul on and show him the ropes, as it were. There was a moment's silence, then Peter said he would call him when he was ready -- thirty-five years later, Paul still hasn't received the call.

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 20:40
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