8 November 2011


So it’s called. Monanism is the current exhibition at the new and edgy private Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) in Hobart. Megan and I were in Hobart for a few days and we got to MONA X+ and this is what we found. It’s quirky, confronting, fascinating, quite brilliant and a challenge. My impression is that everyone visiting Hobart is going there but it’s not really for all. It’s nestled in a vineyard (good), provides accommodation (good) although not cheap, has its own boutique brewery (nice) and is seriously well designed. I overheard an older lady who was impressed by the architecture (everyone is: built low, glass hydraulic lifts, cut from sandstone, on the estuary, wonderful views, its own bus and ferry to deliver you from Hobart docks) but she was not comfy with the art. The old art is ancient, mostly Egyptian, and it seems to jump over the years between, as it also misses Africa and the Americas and Asia. Not all the collection is on display, but I remember one 16th Century Italian wax head (an interesting piece, given the impermanence of the material), Egyptian and modern/contemporary. And what challenging modern work! Lots of sex; lots of fannies (150 in C…s and other conversations / Greg Taylor and friends); all sorts of bodily functions, including a fascinating, if pongy, display of human digestion (Cloaca professional / Wim Delvoye); lots of video; some Nolans and Boyds, including a Breughel-like Melbourne in atomic flames (Melbourne burning / Arthur Boyd). There was a good deal of humour and frequent politics, ideas prioritised over skills (common enough in recent visual art), shock and oddity and in-your-face vulgarity. I was intrigued by the presumably genuine assisted-suicide kit that you could experience without total/final commitment (My beautiful chair / Greg Taylor, Dr Philip Nitsche). I squirmed and laughed with some embarrassment at the very non-suburban, in-your-face bodily investigations. But it was well attended and thoughtfully if idiosyncratically collected and presented with excellent graphic design and a rich experience of digitally-enabled live guides. Truly a fascinating day out.

MONA itself has a notable provenance. It’s a collection of one man, David Walsh, a Tasmanian millionaire and “rabid atheist” who grew up locally. Wikipedia says it nicely: “A university drop-out and autodidact with mathematical skills, Walsh made his fortune by developing a technical gambling system used to bet on horse racing and other sports globally.” Well, it’s certainly a good use for all that gambling profit. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA X+) is located and Hobart.

PS, I’ve thrown in three pics of Hobart: a graffito, two transvestites at the mardigras and some typical cute Georgian houses in Battery Point behind Salamanca Place.

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