Tassie museum is sure to shock

The Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania.
The Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania.

MY MUM and I sat on bean bags overlooking Hobart's River Derwent. We were at the Museum of Old and New Art - aka MONA.

Fortified by coffee, we were speechless about what we had just seen.

Museums are safe bets for motherly outings, but the MONA is not your usual museum.

No matter if you have seen Paris's Louvre or New York's Met, it won't prepare you for our rising star of the museum world.

For starters, MONA is not government-owned and areas come with a content warning.

It is the brainchild of Tasmanian gambler David Walsh. He has spent millions building the museum, which opened last year.

We had been told the best way to visit the MONA was to take a 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Hobart.

The three-storey museum is built into a sandstone cliff, which greets you as you disembark from the ferry.

Straight away you notice this in not a stuffy museum.

No labels on walls, instead you are given an iPod (The O) that lets you read about the art. It is so tricky it remembers what you have seen, senses what artwork you are near, gives David's Gonzo art explanations, and even lets you vote on whether you love or hate a work.

With our Os and map (M15 areas marked in red) we descend a glass spiral staircase to the bottom floor.

It is dim, the cliff walls are exposed and we find a vaulting room with a bar and plush, vintage furniture - or is that an artwork? The fun has begun.

Corten stairwell and surrounding artworks.
Corten stairwell and surrounding artworks. MONA Museum

The woosh of a waterfall is heard nearby. Water is tumbling from up high in short intervals, spelling out a word each time. We have just encountered bit.fall by Julius Popp.

Further along is a huge church steeple that is pointy at both ends. It is twisted like a double helix and suspended from the ceiling.

Around the corner are metal crowns of thorns by the same exhibiting artist, Wim Delvoye. Look closer and you see the branches are crucified Jesuses.

It is like a labyrinth down here and we find a bright room. I notice the smell. Have we come across the bathrooms?

No, it is the mad-scientist world of the Cloaca. A long machine with clear sides churns a slightly thickshake-looking substance towards a conveyor belt. The poo-brown colour gives everything away!

Quickly we escape up a ramp in a long tunnel. As we walk the walls explode with sound and everything feels like it is shaking.

My mum grabs me in panic - we are 'in' an artwork, a sound installation by Christopher Townend.

Our senses assaulted, we hurry to a room with river views - ahh, some peace. But we are not alone. The elephant in the room is the marvellous Brett Whiteley work, The Naked Studio.

Hour after hour we explore the vast collection: a mummy in a room full of water, tattooed pig skins, an obese Porsche car, a huge head sculpture that lets you watch its flicking brain, Sidney Nolan's massive wall-to-wall Snake, a white library (no words allowed), central American-style skulls, video clips of people singing Madonna, shocking love letter kisses (not made with the 'usual' lips), a cement truck constructed from cast iron lacework, and much more.

Back in the light of day, visitors are in a daze and busting to ask each other what they thought.

Did we just see what we think we saw? Did you love it or hate it? How do you explain this place?

One thing is for sure, the MONA leaves a lasting impression.

Don't expect to understand logically. It will move you in more ways than you expect. And isn't that the true role of art? It's your call.



  • 655 Main Rd, Berriedale, Hobart, Tas
  • Open Wednesday-Monday, 10am-6pm
  • Tasmanians free, adults $20, concession $15
  • Contact 03 6277 9971,,


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