On a recent, too-short visit to Hobart, the city I called home for 8 years, the thing I was most looking forward to, apart from seeing friends and breathing in the fresh, icy air, was to finally visit the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). Along with the rest of the community, for several years I had watched the museum construction from afar, looking on as the small peninsular jutting into the Derwent River was exposed, tunnelled and sculpted, before being closed up once more behind thick, concrete walls. I thought the Fender Katsalidis structure looked like a bank vault, and wondered what treasures were being installed as I went about my daily life. At the time it just seemed like such a fantastical thing to happen to little Hobart, but now it’s clear that Australia’s southern-most city is the perfect location; reminiscent in its remoteness of the excellent Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, Japan.
The story of the man behind the museum is equally intriguing, so if you haven’t already heard it, enjoy.
The current exhibition, Theatre of the World, is a collaboration between Mona and the more traditional Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG). Together they present a seemingly random collision of ancient artefacts, colonial paintings and fiercely modern art that, in its highly curated eclecticism, allows you to see everything in a new light. But that’s true of Mona’s entire concept – take, for example, Egyptian mummies displayed alongside ‘Fat Car’, the morbidly obese sports car sculpture by Erwin Wurm, or the positioning of the beetle-covered ‘Skull’ by Jane Fabre beneath a colonial-era painting of a jaguar. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a collection of tribal bommy-knockers look so sophisticated – the lighting is superb!
Of course, there’s a lot more to Mona, both in content and theory. So much that I’m not even going to attempt to delve into it here – let’s just say Mona is just a big ol’ weird, wonderful, morbid, entertaining and above all, rich, experience.
Rather than printed artist information within the museum, admission includes catalogue-loaded iPod.
The enormous ‘Snake’ by Sidney Nolan.
‘Cloaca’ by Wim Delvoye
All photography by Sean Fennessy