It’s the most public and provocative private art museum in the land – and it’s just landed right on a commanding sandstone escarpment beside the River Derwent, a short trip by ferry or car from Hobart’s CBD.
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has already attracted international and national attention for not only its eclectic collection but its innovative and dynamic approach to displaying art.
The museum is a subterranean architectural and cultural showpiece – worth a visit for its design excellence alone – set in a striking purpose-built building designed by Melbourne architect Nonda Katsalidis. It’s also, of course, the venue for Tasmanian tycoon David Walsh’s astonishing art collection – perhaps Australia’s most extraordinary and confronting. Its myriad pieces range from Egyptian antiquities to challenging contemporary artworks that are not for the faint-hearted.
Walsh’s collection of more traditional “old art” features Greek, Egyptian, Roman and pre-Columbian antiquities, each exhibited with MONA’s quirky trademark touches. It includes the mummy and coffin of Pausiris, complete with CAT scans showing what lies beneath.
MONA also breaks new ground with the labelling of the works, in that there are none. Visitors are issued an iPod-like gadget – to navigate their way around the spaces and provide information on the works. The appeal of this exceptional new Australian gallery is that it is loads of fun, and a most persuasive argument for a visit to Hobart.