MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) is a very cool museum that I was quite curious to experience while visiting Tasmania. David Walsh is a Tasmanian gaming mogul with very eccentric tastes who privately funds MONA, which includes many works from his personal art collection. The museum opened in January 2011 and sparked a big increase of tourism for Tasmania. I traveled to MONA via the pimped out ferry (complete with graffiti walls, lounges, plastic cows & sheep, astroturf , gourmet kitchen and bars) which is the intended way for guests to arrive at the museum. Then I climbed the 100 steps (exactly) into the fortress of art weirdness. The museum is a modern structure built into the cliffs atop a small peninsula with the galleries underground. It is a cavernous space with no windows and a giant sandstone wall along one side. A glass elevator takes you to the lowest level underground and from which you travel back up through the galleries. Rather than having the name of each artwork displayed, visitors receive a souped-up iPod Touch, which identifies the closest works of art (in proximity of the user) with the touch of a button. A unique menu pops up for each artwork with soundbites from interviews with the artist, insights by the curator or musings by David Walsh. You feel free to move through the museum at your own pace and explore according to what you are drawn too (although I took pains to systematically walk through each section, out of fear that I’d miss something). There are several restaurants and bars at the museum, serving their own Moozillla wines and Moobrews, which encourage you to relax and slip into this netherworld.
David Walsh’s art collection started with Roman, Hellenic and Egyptian artifacts but is now counterbalanced with contemporary modern art. Many of the pieces are interactive, including a giant trampoline with meditation bells hung from it, crazy ping pong tables, pulse measuring light installation, etc. When I visited several of the exhibits only allowed a few people to view at a time. I was profoundly struck by an art piece that I was ushered into unwittingly; a white room with a nest or plumes of the thinnest paper shreds. At the back of the room was a partially exposed beautiful Japanese woman (the artist) wearing white and carefully cutting the borders of a single sheet of paper, in a single, uncut, thread in total silence. At first I was just taking in the room itself, then I moved on to the artist, at first the most obvious questions (why?) and then more intimate (what was motivating her) and finally judgmental, which immediately swung around to judging myself. It was quite a mind trip and after some time I scrambled out of the room to let the next person in. I could go on and on but the bottom line is don't skip MONA if visiting Tasmania or better yet, another reason to go!