BY Lisa Lindblad
September 5, 2014
David Walsh opened MONA in 2012 and, in the two years since, it has become the #1 tourist attraction in Tasmania. And that is not because Tasmania has nothing else to offer (we will write more about this gorgeous island at the edge of the world in a later post). In a state with 500,000 residents, MONA had around 750,000 visitors last year. It is spectacular.
The sign affixed to the metal container at the ticket office on the dock gives you a taste for the flavor of the experience to come. Quirky, intelligent, humorous, confident – these adjectives are just a few on a long list I can think of: Stunning design, eclectic material, courageous installations, brilliant technology, thoughtful description, irreverent interpretation. My God, this is a cultural experience that I could live inside of for days — and will, because on the accoustiguide offered at reception one has the ability to save the show – the images, the object details, the artist descriptions and Gonzo’s (David Walsh) commentary – to your computer to return to as many times as you want. How brilliant.
The museum entrance leads to a three story structure that dives deep in to the earth and twists and turns along sandstone walls and iron pillars. Being in the MONA is like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. Egyptian sarcophogi meet Leni Riefenstahl film footage; water tumbles from the sky in readable words; the installation, Cloaca Professional, 2010, shows the human digestive system in a series of glass receptacles – it is fed twice daily and poops every day at 2pm; a Buddha, made of incense ash taken from Buddhist shrines in Shanghai, slowly changes shape, like the shifting sand dunes of the Serengeti.
His art collection started, Gonzo tells us, with this piece
a Yoruba palace door that he picked up years ago. As the guide explains: “David bought this from a gallery in South Africa because he had too much money to take out of the country”.
There are layers upon layers of experience here at MONA..there is a chapel constructed of rust colored filigreed iron like a little Victorian folly complete with stained glass windows showing skulls and bodies; there is a phenomenal restaurant, The Source, which they describe as “a bubble above the hubbub of humanity below”; and 8 pavilions, one and two bedded, that look out to sea. If you can believe it, there are the most luscious chickens and roosters walking about the manicured gardens, all glossy and fat and beautiful and, in the parking lot are two quite special cars parked in side by side spaces saying GOD and GOD’S MISTRESS.