One reason why you should put Tasmania on your travel list, and definitely make a jump south when you’re already in Australia, is Hobart’s amazing Museum of old and new art, in short: MONA.
Usually, on every trip, I will go to a museum. I’ve been to the world’s most famous, from the Louvre to Tate Modern, the Guggenheim Bilbao to the MOMA, the Museu Picasso de Barcelona to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul.
But honestly, I think nothing beats MONA, for me, it’s the best museum in the world.
Mona: a museum, or something. In Tasmania, or somewhere. Catch the ferry. Drink beer. Eat cheese. Talk crap about art. You’ll love it. Mona has art, bejesus. Some that’s good, some that’s old, and some that’s neither
. There are paintings and also new-fangled stuff –’conceptual’ it’s called, …
That’s how they describe themselves.
Total understatement. It’s so much more.
It is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. The museum has antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the collection of its founder and owner David Walsh.
Walsh is a Tasmanian billionaire, who made his money by developing a gambling system used to bet on horse racing.
He decided to give something back, and founded Mona, which is free to visit for Tasmanians.
From the outside you may wonder: where is it?
Above, all there is are the vineyards and some bars, a restaurant/bar and some random art. All you see is a small building – the entrance.
The real action is underground.
The museum itself is build underground into the Tasmanian sandstone.
A spiraling staircase will lead you down into a dark cave-like labyrinth, several floors connected by bridges and stairs, big and small exhibition rooms, tunnels and cubes.
There are no windows, and the focus in on the art, even though the architecture alone would be worth the visit.
It’s a short drive from Hobart, though most visitors take the ferry up the River Derwent.
To see the art, you work your way back upwards towards the surface. Though you need to make sure you’ve explored every path and corner, and discover some more.
There are a number of objects from David Walsh’s personal collection. There’s the rain machine depicting words taken off the internet, falling down in front of the Sandstone wall, dissolving while falling.
There is Cloaca, the machine that digests food and turns it into excrement (watch it here).
Theres the Madonna box, one of my favorite, where some die-hard fans sing her biggest ’80s hits from The Immaculate Collection.
There is digital art that is created expressively for Mona.
But, and this is why I keep coming back, there is a number of changing year-round exhibitions, that make the museum worth a new visit each time I’m in Australia.
What I like most is the interesting way they assemble the art.
You might see a Flemish master hanging next to something modern, a Japanese cartoon or a Jeff Koons. Centuries apart, but they are linked by a common theme (sometimes not that obvious, but hey, gives me something to think…)
Sometimes you can not only look at the art, you can crawl into the art (some bean-bag-like furniture) or you can be the art (when you’re making the art react to your movements…)
And, of course the technology to visit is state-of-the-art. You’ll be handed an iPhone and a headset with an app called the O, that will explain each artwork for you. You can give feedback by liking or dis-liking the art.
I strongly recommend you do take it, and register with your email address. At the end of your visit, your itinerary in the museum will be mailed to you, and you can revisit the art again, see what you liked and learn more.
Here is a screenshot of my journey through MONA.
It is really hard to make a selection of the best and most interesting pictures of our 4-hour visit to Mona. You can see and read more about my previous visit in 2014.
Here’s a best-of from 2017: