Evan Woodruffe: Uptown Art Scene

Back in 1990, I bought my first piece of art from a gallery just up Queen Street from Mayoral Drive called Oedipus Rex.

Thirty years later and now named OREXART, the gallery is found on that other Golden Mile – Ponsonby Road.

This is the fifth location OREXART have shown their artists from, most recently moved from Putiki Street, Grey Lynn. From an upstairs space with little signage and no street-frontage to a corner site at 221 Ponsonby Road, this is a big shift for a gallery, even as established as this one. Yet while smaller and more expensive, Director Rex Armstrong is very pleased with the move.

I visited Rex while an exhibition by local artist Richard McWhannell was on the soft white walls - large and small canvases depicting small town Texas. In 2017, on a train ride across the state, McWhannell had been latched onto by a Texan artist who insisted that should he ever return, he’d show him “the real Texas”.

Two years later, when visiting relatives in Canada, McWhannell decides to ring this total stranger and invite himself to stay for a couple of weeks. The result is a suite of works that take in wide panoramas (including large watercolours made on location) and peculiar detail – giant movie star billboards adorning a lonely highway, dark silhouettes of birds in a tree.

 In New Zealand, the arts are supported by a strong and dedicated community, but it often seems separated from the wider community. Art galleries are often located out-of-the-way for cheaper rents, knowing they’re a destination location.


By choosing Ponsonby Road, OREXART joins next-door neighbours FHE Galleries, with { Suite } in the next block, in putting their artists directly in the public’s eye. While these galleries are juggling the kind of rents commonly the preserve of clothing boutiques and hospitality, expanding their audience into the mainstream seems a good business plan. Here’s to more art on Main Street! (EVAN WOODRUFFE/STUDIO ART SUPPLIES)


#studioartsupplies #evanwoodruffe #orexart #orexgallery #ponsonbynews #iloveponsonby #ponsonby #auckland #aucklandshippestrip #onlyponsonby #ponsonbyroad #Greylynn #freemansbay #westmere #ponsonby #hernebay #stmarysbay #archhill #family #friends #coxsbay