Experience | Art | Tasmania


Get ready to embrace the eccentric

by Susie Baber  |  28 February 2022

MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) is Australia’s largest private museum and one of the most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities in the world. The owner, David Walsh is a professional gambler, art collector, and businessman that made his fortune on blackjack and racetrack gambling. Investing hundreds of millions of dollars of his personal fortune to house his collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art.

The building

Jutting out from the western bank of the Derwent River. The Moorilla Estate has been built in the spectacular setting of the Berriedale Peninsular. In order to preserve two historic houses by Roy Grounds, most of the museum is underground and from the street appears to be a single-story building. Construction required tunnelling down through the sandstone, digging under and around these buildings to keep them intact

Getting there

The classic mode of transport to MONA is by boat. The Mona Roma high speed catamarans sail from the Brooke Street Pier in Hobart and the trip up the river takes about twenty-five minutes. The cost for the ferry is the same if you take it one way or both – $23 per person. If you are feeling extravagant (and we were) you can upgrade to the ‘Posh Pit’. For just tad more at $58 per person escape the riff-raff in a private lounge at the pointy end of the boat, with food and drinks included. While we girls enjoyed champagne and breakfast on the boat, and admired the scenery along the Derwent River, our husbands decided to drive to MONA so that we would have the car available for any other exploring we might do in the afternoon. I think we got the best end of that deal.

How long do I need

Not open every day, when we went it was open Friday to Monday, and bookings are a must so plan ahead. Entry is free for Tasmanians but not so for tourists – $30 for adults and free for kids. Entry is timed but there didn’t seem to be a limit as to how long you could stay, it took us about 4 hours to wander around the galleries and then we braved the weather and had some lunch out on the lawn.

The experience

After disembarking the ferry you climb 99 steps to the main entrance. Whilst most museums have imposing entrances, at Mona’s entrance you’ll find …a tennis court, because David Walsh likes tennis. There is not much to see as you enter, you are left in suspense until you reach the bottom of a long spiral staircase descending 17m to the bottom level of the museum (lift available for those who need it). At the bottom you find ‘The Void’ bar, in case you need fortification before beginning your exploration of three floors of subterranean architecture, art pieces, and exhibits.

The general collection houses 1900 pieces and is continually evolving. You can borrow one of Mona’s custom iPods The ‘O’, or download the app to your phone to learn about the pieces on display. Which is great since the museum doesn’t use labels on the walls and some of the art does need explaining. You will see celebrated pieces and cutting-edge exhibits sitting alongside antiquities such as Egyptian mummies. Not all the art at MONA will appeal to everyone, the museum features many unique and provocative exhibits that will shock unexpecting visitors. The Great Wall of Vagina, 151 porcelain vulvas sculpted from real women, is one of the more famous. Providing you don’t use a flash you can (and I did) take photos in the galleries, but copyright laws being as confusing as they are I decided against including any images here – you will just have to go and experience it for yourselves.

Whether you love it or hate it, since its inception, the Museum of Old and New Art has become one of Hobart’s most popular tourist attractions and is definitely worth a visit.

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