Sunday, May 20, 2012


The Museum of Old and New Art ("MONA") was an unexpected and delightful discovery in Tasmania. Accessible inter alia by ferry from Hobart, it's an incredible private gallery, founded by the idiosyncratic David Walsh who apparently made his money from devising and utilising a mathematical gambling system. The ferry passes multifaceted cliffs, an industrial site complete with giant metal constructions and a bridge that seems to point the way; in the distance a rust-coloured, rust-covered structure appears and on docking, you climb about a hundred steps to the gallery. The entrance to the gallery is on the hill and you descend a large spiral staircase, winding around a glass lift shaft, into the multi-level, cathedral-like exhibition space which has been blasted from the sandstone, an exercise apparently costing $100 million alone. Every visitor is given an iPhone ("OPhone") which gives details of each artwork as you pass nearby and enables you to love or hate it (7% of visitors liked the first work I loved, but it's not clear whether that's all visitors from all time, ie since MONA opened in January 2011, or just those who expressed a preference) and read splendidly mordant comments by David Walsh himself about the works (he admits candidly that the reason he has come to appreciate the Damien Hirst spin painting may be that it cost him "half a million bucks". There is, as advertised, both old and new art displayed, brilliantly, side by side: both very, very old (pre-historic) and very, very new. It's hard to describe what a transcendentally wonderful place this is and my photos don't do it justice. MONA alone was worth the trip to Tasmania and it is probably the best art gallery I've ever visited: a breathtakingly exciting experience and a source of wonder.