Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania

On the shuttle bus to MONA - first day of opening to the public

The two symbols of MONA

MONA opened last weekend and everyone is invited, the gallery is free and intends to stay that way. I recall Queensland’s contemporary art collector James Baker opening his private gallery to the public many years ago and whilst it was open he generously shared his collection without charging the public so now we have another far-sighted individual in David Walsh who puts his money where his mouth is.

MONA a view from the Derwent Centre - Architect Nonda Katsalidas

Yes we have the Sydney Biennale exhibiting art in non gallery venues but MONA was built as a gallery and you will find the building is as subversive as the art inside. It houses all elements – that is materials and methods of construction and then the non material, charm and surprise and for some bewilderment awaits. And you must make a commitment and enter, like Alice you will descend into this gallery as little is on the outside, it is another world and all the world is invited.

John waiting at the special ferry for MONA at Hobart dock

The night before our long Saturday visit we went out to the opening party by ferry. A very pleasant 20 minute journey on the Derwent. When 11,000 people applied online to get tickets to the opening and 2,000 were selected by computer we were two of the lucky ones. Was it a clever gambling system that we cracked?

David Burnett, Curator of International Art at the Queensland Art Gallery catches up with John – David is on the left.  They share a passion for scarves.

So the next day we changed all our plans and went back to MONA as early as possible even though we had tickets for the ferry later at 6.15pm, but we just knew that a couple of hours in the evening would not be enough.

As we were about to take our place in the entrance line, it was quite short at this stage, David Walsh arrived and hung around for a while surveying the situation, he must be a very proud man.

Another view from the queue, a carton here that contained a tiny section of the huge Sidney Nolan artwork that forms a major centrepiece in the gallery. The girls on stage were doing a sound check. See the tennis court in front of the stage, a facility David Walsh insisted on including.

The entrance has a mirror of horrors facade, love the effect. If you look up close I seem to have a shot of David Walsh at the front of the entrance.

I like the inside entrance, a living room, a few chairs and a cosy fireplace – it all spells WELCOME.

SORRY MY REGULAR READERS – NO PHOTOS OF THE ART HERE – I have written asking permission to reproduce some of the artworks, you are allowed to take photos but not reproduce them on private websites without permission.

We ordered a copy of the special limited edition of the catalogue, easily justified, how often do you get to go to the opening of a brand new gallery, we went to the new Guggenheim in Metz last year but it had been opened for several months, so being at MONA is an opportunity not to be missed. We drove down from our cosy small town in the north-east – Bay of Fires and it was well worth the 4 hour trip. And you know what we are going to do it again when our book is available, we will spend a few more hours, we could not see it all and we need to revisit some work we liked.

On entry you are given an iPod that you use as a guide to the artworks, if you press Love or Hate, the gallery can keep a track on the affect the work is having on people, but I just figured out that I should  have pressed Hate instead of Love of the work I want to stay.

My friend Ken Erger had his letter to the editor published today in The Mercury along with many others on the same topic – this is what he said, ‘As David Walsh looked out upon the sea of faces at his MONA, did he ever imagine that his gift to all of us would bring such speechless wonderment to so many? Any chance Hobart can now encourage him to help change the look and feel of our waterfront and CBD with his ability to visualise, organise and transform?


  1. #1 by louise martin-Chew on January 27, 2011 - 1:04 am

    Hi Roz
    Thanks for this – like being there. MUST make a visit. I love the vision.


  2. #2 by Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial on January 29, 2011 - 9:15 pm

    Roz, it all looks and sounds wonderful. And can I just add that you and John both looks most fine that day too! 🙂

  3. #3 by David Walsh on February 7, 2011 - 6:57 am

    thanks for your kind words. With regard to photos I have a dilemma which goes something like this: if you visit the British Museum you get what you expect. Something wonderful indeed, but the very wonderful that you signed up for. The effect is a bit profound, a bit fairy floss. I imagine that the first time you taste something sweet it’s life changing. The last time merely requires you to brush your teeth. The exterior of Mona is designed to give no clues about what’s inside because I want visitors to have no preconceptions. I want you to have to chew hard to swallow. And to not get the taste of fairy floss when you do. So I wonder, should I allow photos of the interior to be published? The answer is yes- it’s more important to pull potential new visitors than to grab by the balls those who will come anyway. Also, I can’t ignore the fact that some can’t make it, and some don’t want to. By all means, put your pictures up, if you can be bothered.

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