If you are going to Tasmania, you must experience the ‘Mona’ in the capital city of Hobart. What is Mona? It is the Museum of Old and New Art, a totally different encounter, definitely not your typical art museum, that’s for sure. You will love it or hate it. Either way, you have to check it out for yourself. Are you intrigued? Let me explain.
The most popular tourist attraction in Tasmania
I recently went to visit this major tourist attraction that has put the island of Hobart in Australia well and truly on the map. It’s one of the main destinations here in the state, that everyone is flocking to see since it opened in 2011. Mona is the largest privately owned museum in the Southern Hemisphere and is the creation of professional ex-gambler, mathematician, millionaire and art collector, David Walsh, a local Tasmanian. The location is absolutely stunning.
From the outside it doesn’t look like a museum at all. No signage leaves you pondering how on earth to get in to the place. Entry is through a large wonky, mirrored wall, which I wouldn’t have known, except that I saw a couple of people walking through.
The Mona building
The building itself is a structural work of art, built into the cliff face. The galleries are all underground on several levels, with a spiral staircase, tunnels, ramps and steps everywhere. No windows at all make it rather dark and dungeon-like, and a bit spooky. It’s basically a cave of mazes.
How to explore Mona
There is no right or wrong way to explore the museum, just let your senses guide you and be absorbed by the artwork. Do you like that idea? I found it best not to take it all too seriously. Make of it what you will, get lost in the insanity and just have fun. That is the best way to experience Mona.
Huge, amazing & bizarre art of Mona
Mona was built to accommodate certain large construction pieces of art that the owner wanted to mainly showcase here. Some of the art is indeed massive and takes up a whole room. Such as this one below.
Mona is all about immersing yourself in the amazing exhibits, not merely looking at art hanging on the walls, as is usually the case with most traditional museums. Here you are surrounded by the art, making you part of it. It actually plays with your mind, which of course is the intention. There is old and new art mixed together. About 2,000 pieces from all around the world, ancient and contemporary, are displayed randomly. I would ultimately describe the world of Mona as unconventional to downright bizarre.
The art is regularly changed, so you’ll probably see different things next time you visit.
Collect the ‘O’ device
When you arrive at the front desk, you can collect an ipod-like device called an ‘O’ which you hang around your neck and use it on its own or with headphones. Both of these items you can use free of charge.
There is no information plaques on the walls, so I recommend you grab one of these handy devices or you will wander around in a state of confusion, which is totally fine with the owner too. The ‘O’ is also a scanner and will provide information on the pieces of art, artists’ names, details of the works, and more, using built-in GPS that senses where you are standing and the location of the various art pieces near you. I love this system. You don’t have to follow any particular order.
Confronting pieces at Mona
You will no doubt be confronted with art that will shock you and leave you speechless. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Some of the art is rude and offensive to certain people. Some is funny and exciting. Other pieces are eccentric and will just leave you feeling perplexed. Take from it what you will. After all, art is different things to different people, and all that jazz, isn’t it? The intention here is clearly to be controversial, though provoking and to leave you questioning what art really is. It certainly has given me a new perspective on the relationship between art and the world we live in.
Take this smelly exhibit, for example, it was so stinky in this room that I couldn’t stay here, so I didn’t watch the demonstration of the Poo machine in action. Drats! In fact this display is to raise awareness for bowel cancer.
Final thoughts on Mona
I thought it was absolutely fascinating and lots of fun. I’m definitely glad I went to check it out. I recommend you visit and experience Mona in Hobart for yourself. Be sure to keep an open mind though.
Important Information about Mona
Open: Everyday, except Tuesdays.
Cost: Free for Tasmanians. All others, $28 per adult. Extra exhibits are available and to be paid for separately. You can book online, or at the front desk.
Getting there: By Mona Roma, a specially built Catamaran ferry, from the Port of Hobart. Or a 20 minute drive from the city by car or bus.
Location: The Berriedale Peninsula in Hobart.
Time required: Allow 2-3 hours for the art. Longer if you have lunch here.
Snazzy tip: If taking young children, adhere to the warnings before entering certain sections.
Restaurants and Bars at Mona
I had to try out the Mona restaurant overlooking the river and enjoyed some of the Moorilla wine.
There is plenty to explore above ground too. Trampoline, gardens, picnic ground, and a tennis court (not sure why) and more playful art. Mona is also part of the Moorilla Winery, where events and festivals are held regularly throughout the year.
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So what do you think? Have I inspired you to visit and experience the Mona Museum in Hobart? Leave me any comments below.