20 July 2009

Peter McLeavey: the film

Last night, Rose and I went to the film about Peter McLeavey at the film festival. I've got a lot of time for Peter. I've got a lot out of visiting his gallery over the years, and especially from the many chats I've had with him.

The film had some interesting bits: interviews with him and his wife, extracts from his correspondence, and some photos of the old days. However, I was left with a sense that there were some important bits missing. Peter's been in the same rooms in Cuba St for 40 years, so there was a bit of discussion of how it's changed. However, there was no mention of the effect of the bypass, which I found very strange until I saw the acknowledgement for funding from the council in the credits. Oh dear. (I'm probably being highly unfair with this imputation, but, hey, it's how it looks to me.)

The more serious omission though was that there was no criticism of Peter. He's occupied a position of power and influence in the highly bitchy art world for a considerable amount of time. He will have his detractors. The only time this was alluded to was when he was talking about the importance of loyalty: 'The relationship between the dealer and artist is like a marriage, and sometimes you come home after work on a Friday to find your wife in bed with the butcher.'

I'm sorry, but this doesn't cut it. Come on! Not acknowledging criticism is not fair on either Peter or the audience. And it's dishonest. Peter's a grown up. He can take it. And, to be absolutely clear, I'm not in any way advocating a hatchet job. Rather, you put it to him fairly, allow him to respond, and let the audience make up their own minds. That's what documentaries do.

Part of the problem was that there were no interviews apart from with Peter and his wife. The director got up before the screening and said they'd shot it in three days. They may have thought that this gave them enough material for a film, but unfortunately it did not give them enough material for a good film.

This is a great shame. Rather than a document of lasting importance, we've got a puff piece, a hagiography – and I don't believe in saints.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

They may have thought that this gave them enough material for a film, but unfortunately it did not give them enough material for a good film.- The best thing I have read all week.

David Cauchi said...

And it's only Tuesday!

Anonymous said...

I doubt anyone would label Peter a Saint !! (ask his wife). But there are very few that have anything bad to say about him in the art world ... in my experience he's been honest almost to a fault and a lover of art over a money maker first and foremost. Artists can be extremely fickle and can change galleries on a whim - often with gallery owners actually doing very little wrong.If Peter had "power" over the NZ art world it certainly wasn't through desire - and he went hungry for many years supporting and trying to break NZ's great modernists.

David Cauchi said...

Like I said, I have a lot of time for Peter, and I sincerely hope I didn't imply he is only in it for the money!

David Cauchi said...

What it comes down to is that I have no interest in those who wish to polish idols, only those who wish to tear them down.

Anonymous said...

Groan ...

David Cauchi said...

You don't have to read it, let alone go to all the effort of leaving a comment. More fool you.

And leaving an anonymous comment too, you coward.

Fuck off and crawl back under your rock, whoever the fuck you are.

so you tell me said...

"The relationship between the dealer and the artist is very much like a marriage. Sometimes marriages for whatever reason fall over. Sometimes Dad doesn't come home from work on a Friday night. Next year you get a telegram from Te Awamutu and he's living up there somewhere."

visitors since 29 March 2004.