Sunday, January 20, 2013

If you get a chance to visit...MONA Part 1

Since I last lived in Tasmania 10 years ago, the cultural landscape of Hobart has changed immensely. Although Tasmania has always had a great reputation for supporting the arts and culture, (See also Ten Days on the Island and The Taste Festival), it took a visionary local and a bold project to put the island firmly in the international art spotlight.

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is the brain child of Tasmanian professional gambler and art efficienado David Walsh. The story of the making of Walsh's fortune and his journey to build Mona is the stuff of myth and legend. The abbreviated version is that Walsh was an extremely gifted and introverted child growing up in low socio-economic area with his single parent mother. After dropping out of university he went on to make his fortune as a professional gambler, then spend it all on art and his phenomenal $175million Museum project. “I was extremely rich before I spent hundreds of millions of dollars on art and museums," he told The Australian before its opening. "I’ve definitely run out. I owe a shitload."

So, was it worth it? Absolutely. Australia's largest private museum is an imposing structure nestled into the very sandstone that helped create it. Sitting next to Walsh's Moorilla Estate, a renowned Tasmanian vineyard, the Museum houses a collection that spans mediums, styles and centuries, from contemporary light installations to Egyptian sarcophagi.

Walsh's bold unapologetic project has brought much needed recognition to my home state, which has been the butt of many jokes for far too long. It's the ultimate really, for a socially awkward kid who grew up poor, to return to his home town and silence the critics with his tongue firmly glued in cheek. “It’s like a rich man’s soap box,” he said. “I’m standing on my soapbox and I’m shouting my views like they mean something.”

And they do mean something. It is thought that MONA brings almost half a million visitors to this beautiful island each year, many of those during the Mona Foma (MOFO) festival. MOFO is a week long festival of the arts basically crawling with hipsters, both imported and local (don't worry, I know I'm one of them). MOFO offers an amazing mix of music, performance and art with free events and an accessibly priced week long Festival Ticket pass. So accessible in fact that the organisers are predicting the festival will run at a loss.

While MOFO is well and truly underway, I'll be posting a few installments of what I've gotten up to through the week. It certainly bodes well for an event when the first artist you see is lowered by crane into the murky waters of the Hobart wharf, remaining there for 5 minute before being hoisted back up again. All the while playing the drums without missing a beat.

Images via mofo.net.au and The Australian, quotes from The Australian

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