After too long a time of grazing and skimming portions of the text, last week I finally sat down and read cover to cover Jill Trevelyan's remarkable life of legendary Wellington gallerist Peter McLeavey. Entirely deserving of its recent awards and accolades, Trevelyan conducted an impressive scouring of McLeavey's archives and contacted many of those who are still around to offer frank personal commentary. McLeavey emerges in Trevelyan's portrait as such a tough and formidable character that he nearly escapes hagiography. His letters are priceless reading, and Trevelyan selects lively extracts by this tireless backer of art speaking within an often desperately philistine context. For example, in a 1972 note to Len Lye after the gallerist encountered many administrative obstacles when attempting to show Lye's work, McLeavey states sharply that: "The whole Government thing here is so depressing; invariably only promoting and buying what's 'safe'; taking the balls off anything that's got the juices of life. No, my vibes tell me forget about the National Art Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Arts Council et al. Your work's too big, too good, too great to be fucked around by the whinging mealy mouthed bunch of hicks." And other sources also are eminently quotable, such as the actor Sam Neill commenting upon McLeavey's gallery in its early days being filled with slumming diplomats, junkies, drunken painters, hippies and hipsters. Trevelyan is an able guide through the intricacies of post-war New Zealand art and one of its most memorable figures. And for anyone who hasn't seen Luit Bieringa's terrific documentary The Man in the Hat, it's available to stream online here.