Over the winter I finally got the chance to return to Hobart (probably my favourite Australian destination), and to check out MONA, the incredible Museum of Old and New Art that has been garnering so much attention since it opened in early 2011.
The museum is part of a complex on the Derwent River in northern Hobart, alongside a winery, restaurant and microbrewery. It’s the largest privately funded museum in Australia, presenting an astounding blend of antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the private collection of David Walsh – he has described his museum as a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’. One friend said it put her in mind of a serial killer’s secret underground lair, and it is truly like no other museum I’ve visited.
MONA’s level of detail is brilliant – from the camouflage-painted ferry that runs out to the complex from the waterside docks in central Hobart, to the iPod-like ‘O’ device you are given to guide you through the exhibitions (there are no labels on walls).
The museum’s architecture is suitably moody and edgy; the artworks are brilliantly diverse and challenging at times (including the area where ‘parental discretion is advised’). Yes, there’s a machine that is fed twice a day and defecates (from the visitor guide: ‘pooing time 2pm’). Yes, there is an Egyptian mummy from approximately 100 BC, in a dim, sombre room that can only be visited by two people at a time and is reached by a dark passageway and stepping stones over water. It is all mind-bendingly incredible. Go.