John Leech Gallery was established in August 1855. The following advertisement appeared in Auckland’s Southern Cross and in the New Zealander:
John Leech respectfully announces to the inhabitants of Auckland, that he has commenced business in High Street, opposite the Wesleyan Chapel as Carver, Gilder, Picture Framer and Looking Glass Manufacturer. Having had considerable experience in the above-named branches, he is quite confident of giving the most perfect satisfaction to those who might favour him with an order.
John Leech emigrated from Manchester via Sydney to Auckland and after occupying business premises in High Street, Queen Street and Wellesley Street, he moved to Shortland Street in 1866, considered then to be one of the best locations in town. The Shortland Street shop was also a dwelling place and a focus for artists such as Charles F. Goldie, Gustavus von Tempsky, Alfred Sharpe and J.B.C. Hoyte, who displayed their work in the shop window. The business of John Leech remained in these premises until 1963.
Following his death in 1879, the venture continued to flourish under the management of John’s son Harold, who was also known as John. It was during his lifetime that the business was granted the honour of using a royal crest which read ‘By Appointment to H.R.H. Duke of Edinburgh, His Excellency Earl of Onslow, His Excellency Earl of Glasgow, His Excellency Earl of Ranfurly, His Excellency Lord Plunkett, His Excellency Lord Islington, His Excellency Earl of Liverpool, and His Excellency Lord Jellicoe’.
Harold Leech died in 1945 at the age of 87. In 1946 Allan Swinton, Gilbert Meadows and Howard Newcomb purchased the gallery. Then in 1959 Swinton took sole ownership of the business. In 1963 Swinton organised the move of the gallery to 10 Lorne Street, creating a specialist framing division and an exhibition gallery.
Under his committed and passionate management the firm prospered but was forced to move in 1973 through the imminent demolition of the building to make way for Lorne Towers. New premises were established on Albert Street and the gallery continued to be well supported by the public and artists including Michael Smither, Garth Tapper, David Barker and Jan Nigro who held regular exhibitions.
In 1974, the Gallery was sold by Allan Swinton to a collector of maps and three years later, in 1978, it was purchased by Beverley and Murray Gow and partner Bill Hart. In 1980 Murray also purchased the Dunham Gallery, Remuera and re-named it John Leech Gallery, Remuera. John Leech Gallery continued to also operate in the city until 1986 when the Albert Street lease expired upon the purchase of the building by the Chase Corporation. The city gallery was then moved to expanded premises in Remuera.
Murray and Beverley’s son John, who returned from England in 1981, managed the Gallery and business which continued to grow based on its earlier reputation. In 2002 it was relocated to Kitchener Street, only a block away from its origins in High Street, under partnership between Gary Langsford and John Gow. Here John Leech Gallery complemented the also co-owned Gow Langsford Gallery (established in 1987), which is now located in the same building. In 2011 John Leech Gallery moved to become an online gallery and works can now be viewed by appointment only.
John Leech Gallery, through its history, has continually adapted its practice to stay current within the constantly changing art market. Please contact the gallery for further information on the artists formerly represented or to make an appointment to view our collections.