MONA – Hobart

We flew down to Hobart on Saturday to spend this weekend looking at some of the new things that we hadn’t seen before. The weather was cool with some occasional drizzle, but overall we found it to be quite mild and comfortable.

On Saturday night, we were able to catch up with our friends Steve and Ris who we connected with when they originally hosted David’s host sister when she was an exchange student in Australia. Steve cooked a wonderful meal and we enjoyed their very pleasant company.

On Sunday, we took a trip down to Peppermint Bay. This began by us taking a cruise on a large catamaran which stopped at a number of scenic spots and at one place, we stopped to look at an underwater reef from a camera lowered over the side.

Peppermint Bay is in the little town of Woodbridge. Many years ago, we visited an old fashioned pub that used to be there on the waterfront. It had a good recommendation in the Lonely Planet Guide as having excellent and inexpensive lobster. Our cruise ended at the same place, but now there is a vey modern restaurant complex there. Our lunch was included in our trip and I must say that it was an excellent three course meal.  Back in Hobart, we finished the day at Mures Seafood restaurant on the waterfront near  Constitution Dock.

Today (Monday) we visited the relatively new Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) which is located a half-hour ferry ride up the Derwent River from Hobart. This extraordinary $175 million museum was built by David Walsh who made lots of money playing poker and writing gambling software. We had heard many interesting comments about MONA, so were keen to see what it was all about. What we found was mostly consistent with all the comments that we had heard, but in other ways we were presented with something that was totally unexpected. MONA  is completely different from any museum/art gallery we have ever been to, either here in Australia or overseas.

Firstly, the architecture of MONA is simply stunning. The very modern building is cut into a hill and resembles a series of three basement levels in a very industrial setting complete with exposed concrete and sandstone rock. Whilst the interior of the building is quite dark, the exhibits are displayed in well lit locations, but with no apparent order whatsoever. In one place, there may be a glass cabinet displaying Roman coins, but next to it is a wax figure of a person without a head. This is sort of like the Costco, or Aldi, of art galleries!

Secondly, the art works vary between being thought-provoking and bizarre. They were, without exception, intriguing. People told us that if you are easily offended, then this museum is not for you. I was never shocked, but often confronted and intrigued by some of the figures and exhibits. You certainly need to keep an open mind. My favourite was probably Sydney Nolan’s work ‘The Snake’ which consisted of over 1600 abstract panels across which was overlaid a highlighted image of a snake. MONA is not the place to go, if you think that art should be a set of pretty objects and realistic paintings.

As you enter, you are given a device based on an IPod touch. Wherever you are in the museum, you can download a description of all the nearby art works and when you leave, it uploads a copy of your tour to your email address. Very smart!

I’ll look forward to reviewing my tour when I get home.

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