We're extremely sad to hear of the passing of Peter McLeavey, one the greatest figures of all time in New Zealand art who was a mentor, inspiration and friend to White Fungus. Peter began the Peter McLeavey Gallery in 1968 and really launched modern art in Wellington. Peter was not a typical art dealer. He was perhaps the most articulate person I've ever met and a true fighter for the values he believed in. He was an artist and a creative tour de force in his own right. Both Mark and I would visit Peter's gallery as teenagers. The first piece I ever wrote about art was a review of a Richard Killeen exhibition at the Peter McLeavey Gallery in 1994 for my Art History class at Wellington High School.
The gallery, which is now run by Peter's daughter Olivia, is based on Cuba Street. The first issue of White Fungus was specifically about this part of Wellington and the threat that was posed to it by the building of an inner-city "bypass". After the first issue we approached Peter about advertising in the second issue and he said, "we're in same canoe, hand me a paddle". He was the first-ever advertiser in White Fungus which, due to the respect he commanded, gave us momentum in the New Zealand art world and enabled us to build further support. Peter would draw his ads by hand or type them in his office on his typewriter. One of these of these ads was republished in the biography "Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a New Zealand art dealer" by Jill Trevelyan. In our seventh issue we published some drawings by Peter Robinson, which had been exhibited at the gallery, and McLeavey wrote an introduction.
After relocating to Taiwan in 2009 we kept in touch. The last I heard from Peter was receiving a letter about a year or so ago. He had received our 13th issue and had commented that he particularly loved the comic by Tim Bollinger and the article about the Wellington Media Collective. I was happy for him to see that we had remained committed to supporting Wellington culture despite the geographical distance. Peter McLeavey is irreplaceable and one of the most unique figures to come out of New Zealand. He made you feel fortunate to come from New Zealand, like there was something special about that fact which you could feel proud of. He was a pioneer who never wavered from his principles. We will miss him dearly and pass on our condolences to Hillary, Dominic, Olivia and the other members of the family we never met. Our thoughts are with you.