Mona: The Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, Australia

Updated on November 11, 2019
Organised Kaos profile image

Anne lives and works in Tasmania and believes Tasmania is one of the most beautiful states in Australia. Ideally set up for a road trip.

Mona, The Museum of Old and New Art, is one man's vision that has sprung from the earth in Hobart, Tasmania. Privately owned and run by David Walsh, a born-and-bred Tasmanian, it is the perfect place for a mere mortal to showcase his astonishing art collection. He has built the most amazing piece of architecture to encase an eclectic, ever-revolving, totally captivating collection of old and new art.

The Museum itself is overflowing in wonderment, commencing at the impressive, reflective silver museum entrance and moving onwards to the spiral staircase or glass elevator, that guides you downward to the Void. Here in a foyer-type area carved into the sandstone showcasing bit.fall by Julius Popp, a waterfall forms words randomly selected from Google, is one of the largest exhibits on show.

Installations that are as huge as they are tiny, about topics such as sex and death to Antiquities, made from every material ever known to man.

It's all there, perched on the side of the polluted Derwent River. Mona, a great, hulking, rusting piece of metal shimmering with creativity, jutting out magnificently in the natural landscape.

Waterfall of water - bitmap
Waterfall of water - bitmap | Source

In the Beginning

Mona wasn't David Walsh's first endeavor into creating a museum, initially the estate housed a much milder museum boasting pop up displays, now recycled into the staff quarters. A self confessed failure, the art was removed and stored in warehouses around Hobart and his private penthouses, while a much bigger dream came into being, Mona.

It hasn't always been clear sailing either with community discussion on its development in a poorer suburb, but David Walsh, being a Berridale boy, decided his home location was ideal for his museum. And then there was the tax man wanting his cut of the pie. In true Mona style, funding of this extraordinary place was not done via traditional methods, but by gambling. Suffering or blessed with autism, David Walsh and his co-investors made millions through the casino's and then moved onto the horses. Earnings typically made through gambling are not tax deductible, but as David Walsh, had a business of gambling, the tax man believed he should have got a 4 million dollar payday.

Further problems seemed to find David Walsh, as he fell in love with an American gal Keisha who came with her own financial troubles connected to Hurricane Katrina. Although in fairness, effort have been made by the now Mrs. Keisha Walsh, to right her wrongs and give back to her adopted community of Hobart.

But that's all in the past now...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chocolate suicide bomberSex and Death hallwayBig mechanical headTattoo TimThe Cloaca Professional 2010 by Wim Delvoye Mechanical reproduction of the digestive system. Feeding times are 2pm poo time is 5pm and yes, it smells nasty!Locus Focus 2010, created by Wolfgang Gantner. Described as mixed media including mirrors and lavatory.
Chocolate suicide bomber
Chocolate suicide bomber | Source
Sex and Death hallway
Sex and Death hallway | Source
Big mechanical head
Big mechanical head | Source
Tattoo Tim
Tattoo Tim | Source
The Cloaca Professional 2010 by Wim Delvoye Mechanical reproduction of the digestive system. Feeding times are 2pm poo time is 5pm and yes, it smells nasty!
The Cloaca Professional 2010 by Wim Delvoye Mechanical reproduction of the digestive system. Feeding times are 2pm poo time is 5pm and yes, it smells nasty! | Source
Locus Focus 2010, created by Wolfgang Gantner. Described as mixed media including mirrors and lavatory.
Locus Focus 2010, created by Wolfgang Gantner. Described as mixed media including mirrors and lavatory. | Source

Coming and Never Going From Mona

Even arriving at Mona can be done with flair, cruise in on the ferry, fly in via small aero plane landing on the Derwent river or helicopter. You can catch the Mona Roma, Mona's pink and black bus from Hobart, drive or simply cruise in on foot through the front gate.

Then there is the option to never leave Mona. For $(AUD)75 000 you can choose the eternity package, a slightly gory twist on the lifetime membership packages offered by other reputable museums. Mona has gone that one step further, so after you've enjoyed the spoils of "parties, catalogues, annoying pamphlets, being sucked up to. Then - when you die, we have you cremated and put in a fancy jar in the museum. David's Dad's there already. Don't you miss out" in the words of Mona.

There's Art Museums, and Then There's Mona

Although you will find some of the standard installations available at most museums, like The Snake by Sydney Nolan, Egyptian Mummies and Greek coins dating back from 400BC, that's where any comparison to other museums end. Mona showcases the art that other museums shy away from.

Some of it is extremely intense. It evokes feeling of revulsion, delicacy, disgust, awe, beauty as you pass from one installation to the next. And sometimes you just ask why?

On one side a wall of vagina's called c*nts and conversations, by Greg Taylor and friends, all unique and personal to the owner cast in plaster. A fat red porch that's bulging out over its edges. Don't freak out when you see Head of a Man, Italy by unknown, 1600-1700, it's been carved from wax and is a rare survivor considering the medium used.

One of the grooviest installations has to be Queen (A portrait of Madonna) 2005, Candice Breitz. A thirty channel video installation of people from all walks of life singing and bopping along to Madonna in a tiny room. Can't help but sing along with them.

Then there is the utterly depressing My Beautiful Chair by Greg Taylor & Dr Phillip Nitschke, 2010. An interactive installation: leather armchair, coffee cup, Persian floor rug, Euthanasia machine, lamp and glass coffee table. People have tears when experiencing this installation. If you choose to press the button, the Euthanasia machine will describe the process every step of the way, of your hypothetical death. What is physically occurring (hypothetically) and the bodies physiological response, all the way until the end.

Respectfully tucked away beyond a long corridor of red, floor-length velvet curtains, with plenty of signage - if the long hallway wasn't enough of a hint that this is an over 18's area, is the Sex and Death section. It contains the more risky, adult content. You can choose to enter, or not. But if you do, it's something that will be with you forever.

Mona signature lights.
Mona signature lights. | Source

The 'O' Device

When you enter the stainless steel, shiny front doors and proceed through the reception, you're handed a cute looking little device that is similar to an iPhone. This little monster is your personal, interactive tour guide providing you information you can either listen to or read, about the piece of art close by. It automatically determines which installation you are near, gives you the option to open the artist information or hear a bit of art wank. Same thing really.

As Mona has not stuck up labels on the walls about the art you're looking at, this little guy delivers the information and enhances your experience of the gallery. It's the first of it's kind in the world and aims to replace traditional methods of wall labels.

One awesome feature of the 'O' device is the ability to record your tour. Once registered by email, where you travelled and what you looked at in the museum, will be available for you to view again on line. No way of forgetting all the mind boggling things you saw.

Mona also uses the O device to receive feedback from the museums visitors requesting they vote on the installation. either like or hate. From this collected information, the museum is rearranged or art removed if too many people like it.

Mona O Device
Mona O Device | Source
5 stars for The Museum of old and new art

Where on Earth Is Mona?

berrideale, tasmania:
Berriedale TAS 7011, Australia

get directions

Mona Museuam.

Mona is a Museum like no other. Really, it should have some unique name that encapsulated what Mona is, but there is none. So museum it is.

David Walsh, and his Mona have effectively smashed the pin of Hobart, Tasmania onto the map. There's a lot to see on this small island - and Mona is the icing on the cake.

© 2013 Anne


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    • profile image

      Gary Collins 

      2 years ago

      What a bummer, Just returned from great trip around Tassie and a week later someone tells me about this Museum. We stayed not far away at Moonah in Hobart for 4 nights and never saw anything about it advertised. Oh we'll have to do special trip to see this place being a huge vagina fan and also a few others that we didn't have time to see, but thanks very much for the info

    • Rangoon House profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      I have visited Tasmania many times, but not yet MONA. Hopefully next time - thank you for the introduction in the meantime.

    • Organised Kaos profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

      Certainly are certain elements that may curl your toes, but sometimes its exciting too. Yes, I am a prude who doesn't really like too off the wall stuff, but cause there is so much more so see, its still amazing.

      Thanks for you kind words.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      This sounds like an amazing place; not sure if I'd like some of it though but I'm probably being a bit squeamish and unadventurous. Lots of unique, creative things in Australia so it's not so surprising that Tasmania offers this. I'd definitely go to look if I ever get to Tas.

      Interesting, detailed hub, written with enthusiasm. Well done.


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