My ART | Collector: Leigh Melville

Collector: Leigh Melville

Collector: Leigh Melville

What do you do?

I am the Managing Director and part-owner of Art+Object, an Auckland-based art auction house.

What could you imagine doing if you weren’t in the art world?

I’m full of admiration for teachers and nurses. Right now they are performing essential work in our community, in most unusual circumstances. Not sure how I would go as a nurse, but I do rather fancy contributing to the task of growing young minds in our changing world.

Why do you go to galleries?

It’s a combination of knowing what I want to see, and being surprised by the unexpected. It can be social (you will always meet interesting people in galleries) and enriching. People often ask me how they should start collecting; getting out there and visiting galleries is the first step and it requires commitment.

Why collect?

Collecting art enables me to engage meaningfully with the culture of our country, and support some of the most creative minds you will find anywhere in the world. Living with art is challenging and rewarding. In my life, collecting has opened doors to friendships and experiences that I would be poorer without.

If you could add any work to your collection, what would it be?

In my work, wonderful artworks come and go on a daily basis and I have learnt not to want them all. However, if money were no object … McCahon, Rothko, Keifer, Hodgkins, and Frankenthaler are names that spring to mind. And … perhaps one of Pierre Bonnard’s portraits of Marthe.

Is there one work of art in your collection that you return to time and again?

Every morning I wake up next to Judy Millar’s That Day and feel grateful. On the odd occasion when I need to retreat from the world, I find it terribly easy to slide into it’s depths and be transported to an underwater world, cradled by giant kelp, with sunlight streaming through.

Tell us about the one that got away?

Sadly I have never been good at saying no, and I believe as a collector you have to trust to your instinct and find a way – that is how some of the great collections in this country were built. I used to be a lay-buy girl – but now we have My Art! Genius.

What should change?

Attitudes in our country towards supporting the arts and philanthropy in general. We need far greater investment from central government, from the top down. There should be no argument about that.

What should remain the same?

For a country our size we have a wonderful artistic community and a strong collector base. I hope that never changes.

We are halfway through lockdown – could you recommend something to read?

This lockdown came upon us so quickly, in all honesty I was consumed with making sure we had coffee beans and gin in the house. The first two weeks have gone by quickly while we all found our new normal with online schooling, and working from home. Hopefully over the rest of the lockdown I will be able to investigate the growing pile of books by the bed, attempt something crafty, and finally discover podcasts.

April 2020
Photo: Frances Melville