ATL100 New collections

Throughout our ATL100 centenary celebrations we will be profiling major new additions to the Alexander Turnbull Library collections. These acquisitions build on the legacy of Alexander Turnbull’s original goal to collect… 'anything whatever relating to this Colony, on its history, flora, fauna, geology & inhabitants, will be fish for my net, from as early a date as possible until now'. When Turnbull died there were over 55,000 books, pamphlets, periodicals and newspapers in his personal library; which he bequeathed to the people of New Zealand as the nucleus of a national collection.


The Peter McLeavey Archive

September 2018

L: Peter McLeavey with paintings by Toss Woollaston and Milan Mrkusich. Photographer Marti Friedlander, 1967: Courtesy Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust. R: Letterhead from Peter McLeavey’s first Gallery on the Terrace, Wellington.L: Peter McLeavey with paintings by Toss Woollaston and Milan Mrkusich. Photographer Marti Friedlander, 1967: Courtesy Gerrard and Marti Friedlander Charitable Trust. R: Letterhead from Peter McLeavey’s first Gallery on the Terrace, Wellington.

Peter Joseph John McLeavey ONZM (21 September 1936 – 12 November 2015)

The Alexander Turnbull Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Peter McLeavey Archive. A rich collection of documentary heritage charting the development of New Zealand’s contemporary art scene in the second half of the 20th century through the lens of one of the country’s most significant, committed and charismatic art dealers.

Peter McLeavey’ s representation of New Zealand artists through The Peter McLeavey Gallery in Wellington’s Cuba street, earned the art dealer a multitude of accolades. Jeremy Diggle, Professor of Fine Arts at Massey University considered McLeavey "the most important commercial gallerist New Zealand had ever had, effectively the most pre-eminent publisher of modern New Zealand art in the past 50 years". In 2009, Luit Bieringer produced a documentary about McLeavey’s work titled The Man in the Hat. In 2010, in recognition of McLeavey’s influence on New Zealand art and artists, McLeavey was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Massey University. In 2012, he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the Arts.

McLeavey established his first gallery in 1966 in his Wellington bedsit on The Terrace. In 1969, he moved Gallery operations to the second floor of a building in Wellington’s Cuba Street. This new gallery, The Peter McLeavey Gallery was to become the longest-running dealer gallery in New Zealand. Today the Gallery is managed by Olivia McLeavey, Peter’s daughter, and continues to represent some of New Zealand’s best known modern and contemporary artists. In September this year the McLeavey Gallery will commemorate 50 years of operation.

Well known for his support and encouragement of New Zealand artists, McLeavey famously brokered the sale of McCahon’s Northland Panels to the New Zealand National Art Gallery. Turning the tide, this sale is said to have marked the beginning of the development of a truly representative national art collection. Over the following decades McLeavey maintained strong working and personal relationships with many of New Zealand’s prominent artists. These relationships are heavily reflected in the Gallery archives he meticulously collected and collated.

Central to the Peter McLeavey Archive are the Gallery’s exhibition files. Each file contains collected correspondence with exhibiting artists, catalogues and invitations for each exhibition, photographs of the artworks and artists, publicity materials and transport and shipping arrangements for purchased works; over 560 exhibition files in total, one for each exhibition held in the gallery since 1968.

Selected contents of exhibition file no. 2. McCahon – The Northland PanelsSelected contents of exhibition file no. 2. McCahon – The Northland Panels

Letters in the Archive show the depth of understanding and personal rapport McLeavey shared with artists such as Toss Wollaston, Colin McCahon, Richard Killeen, Gordon Walters, Michael Illingworth, Milan Mrkusich, Michael Smither, Ian Scott, Pat Hanly, Ray Thorburn, Robin White and many others.

Also included in the Archive are Gallery sales ledgers, day diaries and address books, financial records, personal correspondence and significant amounts of art ephemera.

With a longstanding interest in photography, (McLeavey owned a camera since his teenage years), the Archive contains photographs taken by Peter. Most notably collages he compiled between 1974 and 2003. These collages feature multiple images of many artists such as Toss Woollaston, Billy Apple, Les Cleveland, Gordon Walters, Michael Smither, Yvonne Todd, and Warren Viscoe. They vary in subject matter, depicting the artists themselves, their artworks and, in some cases, artist in their studios and homes.

Barry Brickell and Michael Illingworth, Driving Creek, Coromandel 1988. Photographer: Peter McLeaveyBarry Brickell and Michael Illingworth, Driving Creek, Coromandel 1988. Photographer: Peter McLeavey

Jill Trevelyan used the McLeavey Archive as the foundation for Peter’s biography, Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a New Zealand art dealer (Te Papa Press, 2013). Jill described the Archive as “a great untapped source of New Zealand art history…..a room packed with correspondence, exhibition files and diaries”. Among the material, she said, “was Colin McCahon painting a lament for James K Baxter, Richard Kileen describing his first ground-breaking cut-out works, Robin White, starting afresh in Kiribati after a fire destroyed her home and studio, and through all of these narratives, was the voice of Peter himself – encouraging, reassuring and philosophical about the ups and downs of the artistic vocation” .

It is anticipated that the Peter McLeavey Archive will be available to researchers late 2019 to early 2020, once conservation and arrangement & description work has been completed.

– Shannon Wellington, Manuscripts Curator, Alexander Turnbull Library


Flying Nun Records: Collection

July 2018

The iconic New Zealand record label Flying Nun Records has donated their collection of open-reel master tapes and other recordings to the Alexander Turnbull Library. This donation represents the first major acquisition of the ATL100 Centenary.

Flying Nun Records founder Roger Shepherd with a portion of the nearly 1,200 items included in this donation.  Photo: Mark Beatty, ATL Imaging ServicesFlying Nun Records founder Roger Shepherd with a portion of the nearly 1,200 items included in this donation. Photo: Mark Beatty, ATL Imaging Services

An internationally-significant label, Flying Nun Records was established in 1981 by Roger Shepherd. Initially tapping into the abundant creativity of the post-punk music scene, early groups for the label include The Chills, The Bats, The Verlaines, The Clean, Sneaky Feelings, Tall Dwarfs, Look Blue Go Purple, and many others. The label and its artists have had major and ongoing cultural impact in New Zealand, as well as contributing to the global development of alternative popular music. The entry for Flying Nun in the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World concludes: “For many, especially the overseas followers of alternative music, Flying Nun is a metonym for New Zealand music as a whole”.

The donation comprises almost 1,200 individual items, including masters on open-reel magnetic tape, multitracks, demos, and live recordings, dating from 1981 until the mid-2000s. Not all Flying Nun-related master material is included, but this collection represents the largest extant group of recordings. The Library expects to digitise and preserve all of the materials, both the content of the tapes and the tape housings (which are a rich source of information), within three years. This will ensure the long-term preservation of and access to these important recordings, allowing them to be available for remastering and reissuing, and for research purposes. The collection will progressively become available as it is described, digitised and re-housed, but it will be some time before the entire collection is fully accessible.

The Flying Nun donation will become part of the Archive of New Zealand Music, the world’s largest archive of unpublished material relating to New Zealand music and musicians. The Library already holds copies of most Flying Nun releases, as well as associated oral histories and many hundreds of posters.

If you have any enquiries, please use our Ask a Librarian form. Find out how you can donate or bequest an item to our collections on our Donations page.

Flying Nun releases in the New Zealand and Pacific published collection

Flying Nun posters in the Ephemera collection

The Dunedin Double EP oral history project

Media release

The Flying Nun Foundation

– Michael Brown, Music Curator, Alexander Turnbull Library

L: Examples of the 2” master tapes that will be digitised. R: Flying Nun co-directors Ben Howe and Roger Shepherd, with Michael Brown, Music Curator.  Photo: Mark Beatty, ATL Imaging ServicesL: Examples of the 2” master tapes that will be digitised. R: Flying Nun co-directors Ben Howe and Roger Shepherd, with Michael Brown, Music Curator. Photo: Mark Beatty, ATL Imaging Services

Reel-to-reel tape recordings. Photo: Mark Beatty, ATL Imaging ServicesReel-to-reel tape recordings. Photo: Mark Beatty, ATL Imaging Services

By Shannon Wellington

Shannon Wellington is the Manuscripts Curator at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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