I have been hearing great things about MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart for some time, but it was an interview with the creator David Walsh on late night live radio one night with Phillip Adams that really sparked my interest.
This guy - David Walsh, is amazing. With humble beginnings in a working class suburb of Hobart, he is a mathematical genius who becomes a multimillionaire through gambling, of all things. So what does he do with all his cash? Returns to his humble suburb and creates what is arguably the most amazing art gallery in the world, single-handedly reviving the tourism economy in Tasmania and attracting people from around the world. Not being an artist himself, he is nonetheless fascinated by the idea of why people are compelled to make art and most of his interest is with the themes of sex and death. He expected the public to be horrified and even put in provisions for protesters. He recommends arriving by boat where the gallery rises from the Derwent River like an ancient Egyptian tomb.
The night I attended was the opening of "The Red Queen", an Alice in Wonderland inspired exhibition and the boat was filled with mad hatters and other bizarrely dressed folk. There were ceramic sheep to sit on, a funky bar and a talking bird in a cage, amongst other oddness. This set the scene for the evening where I felt I had somehow passed into an alternate universe.
Rising up from sea level, I ascended the stairs to find large fires burning with groups of people huddled around them. There was a band playing and lots of kids around too; don't worry the x-rated stuff is in a separate section. The place is like a labyrinth with no explanation for the art. You can choose to listen to an iPod to tour the gallery but I decided just to let the experience wash over me in an evening of surrealism. The only artwork I recognised was the Cloaca - a machine designed to replicate the human body - with actual excrements being created. Thanks god it was turned off. Apparently it stinks!
Watching people encounter the different art installations was enthralling. One woman next to me gasped as she realised the hundreds of lights above us were beating to her heartbeat as she held onto some obscure levers that no-one had noticed. A giant trampoline covered in ancient looking bells was a hit with kids of all ages. Perhaps it will be gone next week as the popular art works (as voted on the iPod) are removed. A ping pong table, a pinball machine, a human skull with the most fascinating twirling rotating symbols inside, pink furry mountains to roll down, a ship filled with televisions, each one a refugee telling their story. There were queues to peek into things and queues for the bar cut into rock. The place felt like a strange club for people of the world to assemble and unite in their love of art and quirkiness.
Went to MONA a few days ago and we were bitterly disappointed. There were a lot of empty spaces and the exhibitions that were showing were disgusting, crude, immature and try hard. I would have saved our $50 if I had known. The MCA in Sydney shows amazing contemporary art for free, this stuff was rubbish and not suitable for kids or anyone.