Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Making of MONA

When we were in Hobart in November last year we visited MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art situated on the banks of the Derwent River in a suburb of Hobart.

Adrian Franklin has written The making of MONA in an attempt to explain the vision for the museum of its owner, Davis Walsh, and how the museum was created and promoted. MONA was opened on 21 January 2011 so it is a new feature in Hobart but it has quickly become the major tourist destination when visiting the city.

Visiting MONA is an experience. It is not like any other art gallery in Australia. To start with it is a privately owned gallery designed to store and show the collection(s) of David Walsh. To view the items in the galleries you enter at ground level and then take a lift down to the initial viewing area. There are three levels but the area is designed so that the visitor does not necessarily know where they are in the building. Passages take the visitor in various directions to discover another section of the museum. There is a deliberate policy not to have signage and there is limited use of labels, however each visitor is provided with a device which provides information about items in their present vicinity. Themes of the collection are largely relating to sex and death and some visitors may find some of the exhibits confronting. The general setting of the exhibits is that of Carnival. However it is the arrangement of the items including the juxtaposition of antiquities with modern art that can still intrigue visitors who may not appreciate some of the art works. Visitors can always move on to another section. Standing on the upper balcony viewing Sidney Nolan's gigantic (44.3 metres by 5.6 metres) artwork, Snake, is worth the visit on its own.

The author describes how David Walsh purchased the Moorilla Estate Winery in 1995 and how he developed the property to initially show his collection of antiquities in one of the houses on the property, developed and created a brand for a craft beer (Moo Brew), rebranded the wine from the winery and then, after beginning to collect modern art, decided to build MONA to house the collections of the antiquities and the growing modern art collection. There are also artworks to explore in the area around the main museum building. MONA is more than a museum. The vineyard is a working concern and there are bars and restaurants in the museum and in the grounds. Festivals and entertainments are part of the annual program. Most people travel to MONA aboard the MR-1 Mona Fast Ferry from Hobart to the museum. This is all part of the MONA entertainment experience or package.

The book itself features the black and bright pink colours of the MONA brand. The many illustrations show the concept and building of the property as well as photos of some of the artworks. Having visited the location I found the descriptions of the challenges of the building project particularly interesting and now have a slightly better understanding of MONA and its eccentric owner.For more information on David Walsh, read A bone of fact.

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