Australia’s southernmost state of Tasmania is overflowing with reasons to visit. From World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain to Wineglass Bay, voted one of the world’s top 10 best beaches, the island is a haven for nature lovers and foodies alike. There’s also a new star when it comes to Tassie must-sees and Intrepid’s Helen Stevens introduces us to this local gem that is much more than just another museum…
“Situated in Berridale, a working class suburb perhaps previously best known for its proximity to the Cadbury factory, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has become THE reason to visit Hobart. It boasts a world-class collection of all forms of art, from painting to sculpture and new media featuring Australian and international artists. But don’t expect the usual gallery experience.
You can’t talk about MONA without mentioning David Walsh. Walsh is truly a visionary whose contribution to Hobart is immeasurable. Invariably described as eccentric, he is a self-made man. A professional gambler with a penchant for the unusual, Walsh’s vision has transformed the site by digging three stories into the earth. It is difficult to comprehend the scale of the building from the outside but from within, the $75 million construction price tag begins to make sense. The imposing sandstone wall of the museum viewed from underground is reason enough to visit.
Then, there is the art. You tour the museum with an iPhone that updates with information about the nearest piece and asks you to ‘love’ or ‘hate’. Apparently Walsh has said that if an artwork gets too many ‘loves’ he will remove it from the collection. He wants the art to challenge you, not be a mere backdrop. The works do seem to be chosen to polarize. There is Jake and Dinos Champman’s ‘Great Deeds Against the dead’, which features decapitated mannequins strung up on a tree trunk. Then there are the ceramic vaginas, and the Cloaca – a machine that replicates the human digestive system. It is fed daily with a three-course meal from the museum’s restaurant, and yes, it produces faeces. Not all the art is designed to shock. There are also beautifully arresting pieces such as Sidney Nolan’s Snake that looms large from floor to ceiling, running 46m in length and 9m high.
This is a museum for people who hate museums. Sometimes challenging, often outrageous and always changing. Inspired boutique accommodation is available on site. Or, if you really love it, you can stay forever. Literally. For $75,000 Walsh will host your ashes for eternity in the museum. As the website says ‘this is not a joke’.”
You can reach the museum from the city by car in ten minutes, but taking the ferry up the River Derwent from the wharf in Hobart is a lot more fun.
Healthy appetites are well catered for as both the café and the restaurant offer the best of local produce.
Special events, such as guest chefs or music festivals, happen regularly so check the website before you go.
Walsh also owns Morilla winery, situated on site, and Moo Brew boutique brewery, so after your tour allow time to sit back with a glass of beer or wine and admire the spectacular views of Mt Wellington and the River Derwent.
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* photo by Bernie Wyer