The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania

Blog — 19 Feb 2014

Tasmania’s capital, Hobart has a population of 220,000, it is pretty remote, the last land mass before Antarctica. How appropriate that one of the most radical art museums of recent years has it’s home there. MONA – The Museum of Old and New Art, was created to house the eclectic collection of Tasmanian David Walsh. It is quite unlike any museum or gallery that I have ever seen. It is a unique collage of architecture, ancient artefacts and contemporary art. The vision of an extraordinary mind, with the finances and ambition to create it.

The three storey gallery is carved out of the bedrock , its impact on the landscape is minimal, to the extent that the entrance incorporates an original house by the celebrated Australian architect Roy Grounds. The twenty minute ride up the Derwent River from Hobart in a MONA ferry delivers visitors at the base of a steep flight of steps carved into the landscape and framed by Corten steel walls. As well as the gallery there is a winery, brewery and a range of restaurants and bars, these help to fund the running costs. There is an outdoor festival space, live music is performed from the open air stage.

Once inside you descend to the bottom of the gallery and rise through a Piranesian volume that houses large and small spaces, installations and works of art. The gallery space is quite extraordinary, and refreshingly there are no labels, information is communicated via GPS and iPods. The art is fresh, unusual and challenging, there are no Damien Hirst's here, it is very much the collection of an individual, it is oblivious to the fashions and trends of the contemporary art scene, and best of all it has a sense of humour.

Perhaps most importantly, what this project achieves is that rare accomplishment, a complete synthesis of architecture, space and sensory experience. At every twist and turn on the journey there is noise or smell, water or light, volume and movement.

The building was designed by Melbourne architects, Fender Katsalidis who designed the rather bling Eureka Tower in Melbourne. You sense that they worked hand in hand with the Museums visionary founder, it is dark and raw, elemental and brutal, Walsh’s taste is everywhere. This is what makes it unique,

MONA was opened in January 2011. It attracts up to 3000 visitors a day, not surprisingly, it has become Tasmania’s major tourist attraction.