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Alexander Turnbull Library secures significant art archive

21 September 2018: Alexander Turnbull Library secures significant art archive

The archive of charismatic art dealer Peter McLeavey has been acquired by The Alexander Turnbull Library.

Dr Shannon Wellington, Manuscripts Curator at the Alexander Turnbull Library said 'the Archive is a rich and highly significant collection of documentary heritage charting the development of New Zealand’s contemporary art scene during the second half of the 20th century. The letters in particular, demonstrate the depth of understanding and personal rapport McLeavey shared with artist such as Toss Wollaston, Len Lye, Colin McCahon, Richard Killeen, Gordon Walters, Michael Illingworth, Milan Mrkusich, Michael Smither, Robin White and many others'.

Peter John McLeavey ONZM (1936- 2015) established and operated New Zealand’s longest-running dealer gallery representing many notable New Zealand artists and brokering the sale of some of our country’s most iconic works of art. McLeavey started selling paintings in 1966 from his bedsit on The Terrace in Wellington. In 1968 he moved operations to Cuba Street.

Included in the Archive are the Gallery’s exhibition files. These files contain collected correspondence with exhibiting artists, catalogues and invitations for each exhibition, photographs of the artworks and artists and publicity materials; over 560 exhibition files in total, one for each exhibition held since 1968.

Contents of Exhibition File Number 2, pictures and letters displayed on a table
Contents of exhibition file number 2. McCahon’s Northland Panels 1968, featuring photographs, correspondence from McCahon and promotional material from the Gallery. Photo by Mark Beatty.

McLeavey had a longstanding interest in photography and owned a camera from his teenage years. The Archive includes photographic collages that were taken and compiled by McLeavey from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. The collages depict scenes in New Zealand and overseas, artists, their artworks and studios, and the McLeavey family.

Also included are sales ledgers and exhibition catalogues showing early prices paid for many of New Zealand’s notable paintings, significant amounts of art ephemera documenting the development of New Zealand’s art market, and appointment diaries kept by McLeavey during his day to day running of the Gallery.

Hilary McLeavey said on behalf of McLeavey family 'we are delighted that the Peter McLeavey Archive is coming to The Alexander Turnbull Library. Peter would be very pleased. It was his wish that his Archive be available to everyone interested in the years to come.'

The Peter McLeavey Archive will be available by request late 2019/ early 2020.

Library staff looking at the material from the archive.
Shannon Wellington, Manuscripts Curator and Audrey Waugh, Librarian look over material from the Archive. Photo by Mark Beatty.

Media contact

For further information and interviews contact

media@dia.govt.nz or call +64 27 535 8639.