May 6, 2016

The Other MONA

Discover the polarising museum putting Hobart on the world art map

Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous portrait may be synonymous with the name Mona, but professional gambler, entrepreneur and philanthropist, David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) on Hobart’s Berriedale Peninsula is pushing hard at her heels. In 2013 Lonely Planet ranked Hobart in the world’s top ten cities to visit, citing MONA, one of the world’s most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities, as its major attraction.

Walsh wants visitors to ascend from the water as ancient Greeks did to their temples so this intriguing vanguard begins with a ferry across the Derwent to a tennis court (simply because he loves tennis) and an unmarked doorway. Then descending in a glass lift three subterranean levels to a bar entrance, this vast windowless underground cavern cut from sandstone reveals Walsh’s ‘subversive adult Disneyland’ created to shock, offend, challenge, inform, entertain and provoke debate.

Notable works in his rotating collection include Australia’s largest modernist work - the 1,620-panelled ‘Snake’ painted by Sidney Nolan. You could also witness anything from Julius Popp’s ‘Bit. Fall’, a high-tech cascade of water linked to a computer falling in the shape of most popular words on Google to Chris Ofili’s extraordinarily controversial ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’. There is also a 1,500-year-old Egyptian sarcophagus and gold coins from a statue at the Parthenon.

From a water-covered gallery floor, sex and death gallery, and cinerarium where people can have their ashes interred, to Moorilla Estate’s winery and cellar door, Source restaurant, Moo Brew microbrewery, and eight luxurious art-laden pavilions providing boutique accommodation, MONA is an assault on every sense with its wild, wonderful, provocative and polarising presence.