Wellington City Art Gallery: a safe place under the stairs

It is December 2014 and I have traveled to Wellington with the express intention of taking part in the Victoria University graduation ceremony at the Michael Fowler Centre. The pent-up anxiety wave which I had ridden all the way to the front door of the events centre has crested and now I stand saturated, in the shallows with some seaweed in my hair and a starfish stuck to my cheek. The success of my graduation, agoraphobia wise, will be covered in a future blog but the impact it had on the remaining days of our holiday was both smug-grin-facingly positive and unexpectedly challenging.

I had done well, even if I do say so myself. I had made it through my graduation ceremony including all the lining up, painful small talk and waiting around prior to the actual stage-walking bit, without so much as a tummy flutter. But anxiety knows when you are feeling congratulatory and will use it to punish your lack of attention. My success made me a little sloppy and ill-attentive, I agreed to things I would usually undertake only with planning and strategy on my side. Silly Lucy, you know you can’t get ready to leave the house, including medicating and relaxing, to take a train within 20 minutes!

So after my painful experience of mass panic at the Alice Town train station I decided upon a calmer, more studious plan for my day alone wandering the city. I wanted to see the retrospective of works by Yvonne Todd, the Walters Prize winning New Zealand photographer, being held in the Wellington City Art Gallery. My boy, though wonderful in many ways is not in any way interested in art (lack of ‘splotions) so I happily used this time for self reflection, visual masturbation and general bathing of ones self in arty narcissism and my other favourite, voyeurism.


The Wellington City Art Gallery is an airy, laid-back venue over two floors with open spaces, white rooms and hidden crannies. After an hour or so spent wandering each room the exhibition filled (basically every room in the gallery) I completed my comprehensive gallery experience by visiting the down stairs toilets which sit in an odd space between rooms at the wrong end of a some what impotent corridor.

So I sit, with my pants around my ankles staring at the Creamy Psychology poster, writing notes about the bathroom in what feels like a bunker under the stairs.


The women’s bathroom is a single, closet-like room with waist height to ceiling mirrors down one long side. The tiles are 70’s in colour (ochre yellow, beige and cream) and mismatched as thought they didn’t have enough of any single colour to do the whole room so just used up the left overs as ‘feature walls’. The loud air-con system hums over head giving the distinct sensation of auditory privacy.


The now redundant metal toilet roll holders sit empty, usurped by the new plastic variety and covered in years of sticky finger prints.

toilet roll holder

side sink


I love this bathroom. I feel safe and sheltered. The bathroom reflects the same awkward, out of date weirdness that features so strongly in Todd’s photographs. The banality of every day life made hyper real. I feel as though I could curl up in a corner and take a nap ( I didn’t).





This bathroom is wicked-good. The kind I would want on hand if I were to be struck by the perils of anxiety during a trip to the windy city. I will forever consider this bathroom my safe place on the mean streets of down town Wellington.


Cleanliness : 7/10  The grout was kind of gross and God only knows how much artistic fluid has been spilled during clandestine meetings and creative endeavours behind the chip-board door.

Interior : 9/10  Very enjoyable in all the correct creepy but comfortingly boring ways.

Exterior : 8/10  Off the main hall, many other loos which makes this one feel less vital, ergo safer for panic/solace.

Safety : 9.5/10  A slight fear of being locked in but otherwise safe.

Snugglitude : 9/10

Total :  42.5/50


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