Main Image, Opening of MONA 2011 – Groupe F (French Pyro-musicians) by Mark Huber
MONA Museum Tasmania – The World’s Best Art Museum Experience
MONA… what the? For some time l had been hearing positive yet vague comments about this quirky art space, MONA Museum Tasmania – the Museum of Old and New Art. So, call me cynical, but having grown up in Australia and been fortunate enough though our travels to have experienced some of the worlds headlining galleries such as the Louvre, all of the Tate’s, Uffizi, the Guggenheim’s, Getty and New York’s MOMA, was this gallery with the rip-off acronym just a sorry attempt at surfing coat tails? Being in the middle of nowhere, a closer investigation was put on the back burner until recently and… I must dip my head in shame. Perhaps I could put it down to presumption, after all, Tassie does food, Tassie does wine and whisky and Tasmania does devils but is Tassie also a beacon for the art experience? Errr… yes, I was oh so wrong! Of all the aforementioned galleries, MONA Museum Tasmania, for me, is the World’s Best Art Museum Experience.
Image by Rob Taylor
MONA Museum Tasmania – The History
Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh, is the founder of MONA. The Moorilla Museum of Antiquities was founded in 2001 but then given the mother of all facelifts in 2007 – $75 million worth of botox evolved into the Museum of Old and New Art – MONA. The new version was officially opened in January 2011 and coincided with the third MOFO festival of which MONA hosts annually (music and arts festivals showcasing public art and performances).
MONA houses 1,900 works from David Walsh’s private collection. Of his themes, sex & death are high on the agenda, his attitude toward collecting is probably best described by Richard Dorment, art critic for The Daily Telegraph –
…doesn’t collect famous names; his indifference to fashion is one of the strengths of the collection. He likes art that is fun and grabs your attention, that packs a sting in the tail or a punch in the solar plexus.
MONA Museum Tasmania – To Go Or Not Go
To set the scene I’ll need to digress for a moment to give you a sense of my mindset on approaching this venue. The positive comments I mentioned were always followed up with –
Have you been to MONA Yet?
My “No” was met with silence and a widening of the eyes then –
I won’t say to much but it’s interesting!
That was all anyone would say and in hindsight my experience was better for it, so if you’re planning a visit let me just say –
And to follow a baffling marketing move, let me add –
Look away now.
You’re still with me, so thankfully the complexity of my “Wet Paint” strategy is sticking😉 (and the rest of this post wasn’t for nothing).
MONA Museum Tasmania – The Arrival
On approach you feel like you’re up for a nice morning in a vineyard (it is set in the Moorilla winery on the Berriedale peninsula). Having barely parked the car the first installation that you will stumble across hints at what is to come (assuming you drove, if you caught the ferry you’ll be too preoccupied with climbing the 99 steps to notice much else). Two large concrete walls form a funnel, running parallel. “Does my bum to big in this” comes to mind… the rear of a car sandwiched between the walls. Right from the start, your mind is on art alert, a bit like the scary fun house at Disney, you don’t know what’s coming, but you know it’s coming. There was loads of cool stuff to check out around the grounds, there’s a market day on Sunday which has local wares, good food and ordinary coffee, the views across the Derwent River are fantastic. But if you were like us you’ll be gagging to see behind the curtain, or more accurately, the fun-house crazy mirrored entrance.
Image by Sahra Martin
MONA Museum Tasmania – On The Inside
My first surprise was that you descend into the mountain side… very cool. You’re job is to find your way back to the surface. The whole museum is all about the crafting of a cavernous space and then reminding you of it where ever you turn – lots of metaphors at play here for you to ponder. I was also surprised at the amount of permanent installations and the lengths that they have gone to to incorporate and accommodate them within what is already an impressive engineering feat.
Now I don’t want to go into too much detail on the installations themselves. So many of them rely on the element of surprise and I’m sure to get you excited about something that may not be on show when you arrive. What I will say is that you are never too sure what is around the corner, or what an inanimate object is capable of. There is at least 2/3 hours of jaw dropping exhibits. No labels, just a groovy little iPod, or ‘O’ device with an in-built GPS that senses where you are and displays information about the nearby artworks in ‘Art Wank’ (their words, not mine).
We are usually impatient with art exhibits, if it doesn’t grab us we move on quickly. Not here, we are already planning a return trip.
MONA Museum Tasmania – The Verdict
MONA was the most fulfilling public art experience we have had. I pocketed a piece of plastic chain as a memento and it now hangs in pride of place with our art collection at home. It’s a reminder, not only of a fantastic experience but as a kick up the bum, don’t prejudge!
Image by Fraser Mummery
MONA Museum Tasmania Information
Tasmanian’s and kids get in free (under 18 – no Victorian kids allowed😉). For the rest of the world it’s $28 and $25 concession.
655 Main Rd, Berriedale TAS 7011
Wednesday–Monday, 10am–5pm – Closed Tuesday (summer hours TBA)
MONA is 15 minutes drive north of downtown Hobart (on the same side of the river). There is ample parking on site.
The ferry leaves from the Brooke Street Pier, which is pretty much the centre of downtown Hobart, and takes around twenty-five minutes – $22 return (no concession).
There’s also a bus from the same point as the ferry. For the same price as the ferry you can catch the Mona Roma Express. It does a loop from the airport (Virgin Arrivals Hall).
For more details and timetables click here.
Image by Michael Coghlan
Map of MONA Museum Tasmania
Where to Stay in Hobart
Once again we used Airbnb in Hobart. The apartment we got in Sandy Bay was fantastic. You’re never too far away from anything in Hobart, it’s a compact little city. We run our own place in Port Douglas so know the Airbnb system pretty well and for us it’s the most user-friendly of the private holiday rental apps. If you are planning to stay for longer than 2 nights, click here to set up an Airbnb account, it can be a roll of the dice in terms of what you get but you’ll likely get way more bang for your buck.
MONA also has accomodation on-site if you have a bit to splurge – then MONA Pavilions start from around AUD$700 per night. If you fancy going with hotels, below is a Hotels Combined search engine, which is preset to search the Hobart area.
Whilst many of the images are our own we did get some help from the some talented individuals, we like to give credit when it’s due! If you click their links under the images you will see some fantastic portfolios of passionate travellers and photographers.
All images were obtains under the Creative Commons Licensing Agreements
If you fancy some affordable art online see cherylharrison.com.au
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