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Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a New Zealand art dealer

Te Papa Press Peter Mc Leavey cover art

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Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a New Zealand art dealer


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From Montana award-winning author Jill Trevelyan comes the first biography of Peter McLeavey, the charismatic, pioneering art dealer who since the 1960s has shaped – even transformed – New Zealand art. Over the past half-century, Peter McLeavey has known, exhibited, befriended, fought with and championed a who’s who of New Zealand artists. Now, for the first time, he has granted exclusive access to his private papers to award-winning biographer Jill Trevelyan, author of Rita Angus: An Artist’s Life.

Delving into McLeavey’s extensive and hitherto untapped archive of letters, diaries, exhibition files and more, this book offers insights into the artists McLeavey has represented across half a century. Here, in their own words – lively, salty, and often heart-breaking – are Colin McCahon, Toss Woollaston, Len Lye, Milan Mrkusich, Michael Smither, Gordon Walters, Michael Illingworth, Don Driver, Robin White, John Reynolds, Yvonne Todd and many more. McLeavey’s personal story is remarkable, but in reading it, his contemporaries will recognise common and timeless themes: the religious upbringing, the struggle to be bohemian in small-town New Zealand, the challenges of marriage and fatherhood, the dilemma of whether to stay or leave New Zealand, and the need to make a mark.

McLeavey’s biography is the big story of contemporary New Zealand art itself, in a period of massive change and growth. It is a must-read for anyone interested in New Zealand’s art, culture, or recent history.

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