Wednesday 8 June 2011


Hints to Lady Travellers has been a) fighting a cold and b) organising her tax return.  But she really wants to tell you about her trip to MONA so has taken this break from a) and b) to c) post some pictures and talk about herself in the third person.

MONA is the Museum of Old and New Art, located just outside Hobart.  The owner, David Walsh, made his money from gambling (the story goes he came up with a very clever system for beating the casinos) and spent a lot of it on art.  MONA is not your typical, hushed-voices art institution.  It's idiosyncratic, playful, lavishly appointed and all-in-all, pretty jaw-dropping.

My co-conspirators and I were lucky enough to be staying onsite in one of the MONA pavilions (this is not where I add that our trip was kindly sponsored - we paid ourselves, but I have to say that the accommodation is very reasonably priced for the level of service.)

The best way to get to MONA is by taking the ferry from Hobart.  We left at dusk, and were treated to this first view of the museum, looking like the lair of a Bond villain:

You climb these steep steps to get there,

but chairs are thoughtfully provided for rests.

The pavilion had amazing views, Aesop products in the bathroom, original art on the walls, a good selection of food and wine ... though we provided our own picnic.

The next morning after a lavish breakfast, we went to explore the museum.  Here's the queue outside - not bad for a Monday morning.

I have many pictures of the artworks, but am not allowed to post them here.  I thought I might get away with this picture of one of the seating areas, though, as an example of the crazy excellent attention to detail:

The art is a personal selection - and it shows.  The pieces are wildly varied, some I really liked, some not.  It includes some of the most famous Australian artists (there's a wonderful Sidney Nolan piece called 'Snake' which consists of hundreds of individual panels and has never before been displayed in its entirety) and big names from the contemporary art scene like Damien Hirst.

There is no text on the walls: an iTouch given to you as you enter helps you locate works by GPS and includes various reflections on the different pieces.  

What struck me most about this place is that it's really fun - and reminded me that art, is, at its core, about play.  This is borne out by the installation housed in its own little shed near the ferry dock.  It contains a live feed from the French artist Christian Boltanski's studio.  The feed is pretty boring - I'd say like watching paint dry, except that would be more eventful.  I am a big Boltanski fan but this installation feels less like art and more like a joke ... and maybe that's the point.

(View down to the Boltanski shed.)

MONA is well worth the detour - in fact well worth visiting Tasmania for this alone.  That said, the local scenery is also stunning and I wish we had more time to explore further afield.

That wraps up my Tasmanian adventures - except to add that there is a prize for the first person to correctly identify the source of today's post title.  

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