01 JUL 2019

MONA – Refreshingly Irreverent and Dark

If we had several hundred million dollars we'd definitely consider starting a museum.

After amassing a fortune from gambling and commerce, eccentric art collector David Walsh decided to do just that. He purchased a plot of land in Hobart and planned to present his personal collection of 1900 artworks in an epic, purpose built space, mostly underground.

"Unseen Seen", (2017) also by James Turrell
"Field Lines" by Cameron Robbins


Lonely Planet lists the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) as number 20 in its list of the top 100 things to do or see in the world. It's a pretty impressive result from the vision of one person in less than two decades.

Walsh's collection of work offers an insight into the mind of the owner. The tone of the MONA brand is refreshingly irreverent and dark. Says Wikipedia, 'Noted for its central themes of sex and death, the museum has been described by Walsh as a "subversive adult Disneyland" '.

Artworks are displayed against a dramatic backdrop of towering rock face. One of the more captivating works was a machine which created a word from drops of water at regular intervals. Each word was visible only for a short period of time as it fell into a splash 10 metres below. "bit.fall" (2001–06) by Julius Popp suggests the oversaturation and irrelevance of media.

"Eat the Problem" (2018) by Kirsha Kaechele
"Beside Myself" (2017) by James Turrell


Other works have been specifically commissioned for the site, such as "Grotto" (2017) by Randy Polumbo, evidently the "selfie capital of MONA" according to Walsh. Reflective silver layered seating, chrome effect plastic walls and pastel coloured phallic glass forms offer an immersive, hallucinogenic experience.

Polumbo's work forms part of the museum's newest wing 'Pharos', which includes the light tunnel artwork "Beside Myself" (2017) by James Turrell and "Unseen Seen", (2017) also by James Turrell. The artist is focused on challenging the perception of space and light by creating profound experiences.

"Grotto" (2017) by Randy Polumbo
"Snake (Rainbow Serpent)" (1970-72) Sidney Nolan


As visitors we thought the experience was faultless, right down to the custom built GPS tour guide called the 'O' device – which gives a formal description of each work listed under 'Art Wank' by clicking on a suggestive image.

In some works, like New Zealand born Simon Denny's "Mine" installation, concerned with the rate of change and technology, the device assists the experience of the work by creating an augmented reality. Visitors can interact with specific elements of the work for exclusive in-app content.

"Convertible Fat Car (Porsche)" (2005) by Erwin Wurm
"Wall: Wind Funnel" (2016) by Cameron Robbins


From beginning to end, MONA was an out of this world experience, part of something luxurious and colossal like we'd never seen before. We highly recommend you to visit.

"White House" (2015) by Ai Weiwei
"Mine"(2019) by Simon Denny


Words by Emma Eagle / First and second images courtesy of MONA / Other photographs by Dan Eagle

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