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  • Provenance

    Estate of Bill Brandt, London
    Houk Friedman Gallery, New York, 1994

  • Exhibited

    Still Looking: Peter McLeavey and the Last Photograph, Adam Art Gallery / Te Pātaka Toi, Wellington, New Zealand, October - December 2018

  • Literature

    Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Brandt: The Photography of Bill Brandt, pl. 120
    Aperture, Bill Brandt: Behind the Camera, p. 35

  • Catalogue Essay

    The remarkable selection of photographs offered in this auction as lots 139 through 156 all come from the collection of Peter McLeavey (1936-2015), the pioneering New Zealand gallerist who nearly single-handedly created the art market in that country. In 1966, McLeavey began exhibiting art in the bedroom of his flat in Wellington. Among his countrymen were artists whose work he believed needed to be seen, work that was on par with – yet fundamentally different from – that being created in New York, London, or Paris. He was driven, he said, by a desire to 'nurture the culture, feed the culture, expose the culture to people that didn’t know about it.' He became a vocal advocate for artists such as Toss Woolaston and Colin McCahon, among many others, creating a market for their paintings while at the same time maintaining his job at an insurance company.

    His dedication to supporting these artists is borne out by the precarious early finances of the gallery. In a 2009 interview he recounted, with some amusement, 'The first year I worked, every dollar I earned cost me four dollars to get it. The second year, every dollar I earned cost me three; the third year, every dollar earned cost me two dollars to get it.' In the face of this consistent, if slow, march toward profitability, McLeavey found a gallery space on Cuba Street in 1968, quit his insurance job, and became a full-time art dealer. McLeavey continued to operate out of his modest Cuba Street gallery for 40 years, ultimately becoming 'the most important commercial gallerist New Zealand has ever had, effectively the pre-eminent publisher of modern New Zealand art in the past 50 years,' according to Jeremy Diggle, Professor of Fine Arts, at Massey University.

    In the 1970s, McLeavey began to build a collection of photographs. He was attracted to photography, in one sense, because it did not conflict with the work he sold in his gallery and offered an artistic experience wholly apart from his stock-in-trade. More importantly, McLeavey found he had a deep affinity for photography, and his acquisitions often resonated with memories of his childhood, during which his father’s job as a railway worker required frequent moves. His first serious purchase was Robert Frank’s View from Hotel Window – Butte, Montana, which reminded him, he said, of looking out over the rooftops of whatever small New Zealand town would be his family’s new temporary home. McLeavey’s purchases were intensely personal, and often only concluded after much correspondence with dealers half a world away. From this distance McLeavey forged fruitful relationships with Fraenkel Gallery, Edwynn Houk, and Pace/MacGill, among others. McLeavey’s collection was exhibited posthumously in the 2018 exhibition, Still Looking: Peter McLeavey and the Last Photograph at Adam Art Gallery / Te Pātaka Toi in Wellington, curated by Geoffrey Batchen and Deidre Sullivan and accompanied by a printed catalogue.

    McLeavey is the subject of the award-winning 2013 biography Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer by Jull Trevelyan. A full-length 2009 documentary on McLeavey, The Man in the Hat, was released in 2009. The documentary includes an interview with McLeavey at his home in which he speaks with eloquence and passion about the photographs he has collected, all of which hang behind him: 'Every photograph resonates at the deepest level within me. They’ve all been very carefully selected. They are very powerful things for me. I realized I was making a portrait of the self. That each photograph spoke to me at the deepest level of my being, about some aspect of my life, some emotional state I’d been in. They represent my parents, my childhood, places I’d been to . . . Photographs do something to me that no painting can do . . . The photograph has something very unique, and it takes me to a country, to a land, to a space within the soul where no painting can take me.'

Property from the Collection of Peter McLeavey

148

Deserted Street in Bloomsbury

1942
Gelatin silver print.
8 7/8 x 7 5/8 in. (22.5 x 19.4 cm)
Credit stamp and annotated 'Blackout in London - Bloomsbury' in an unidentified hand in pencil on the verso.

Estimate
$7,000 - 9,000 

Sold for $16,380

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department
+1 212 940 1225
[email protected]

 

Vanessa Hallett
Deputy Chairwoman, Americas and Worldwide Head of Photographs
+1 212 940 1243
[email protected]

Photographs

New York Auction 7 October 2021