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Old 08-05-2016, 01:45 PM   #60
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MONA: The world's most far-out museum
MONA Museum of Old and New Art

Chiseled into an escarpment on the banks of the Derwent River in the northern suburbs of Hobart is a subterranean fortress housing one of the most confronting and controversial collections of art in the world.

The crowning achievement of Tasmanian David Walsh, a mathematician and art collector who made millions perfecting algorithms that let him to beat casinos and bookies at their own game, MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) has made a name for itself by breaking every rule in the book ...

“When you go to a conventional museum you are forced to walk up stairs and past pillars meant to make you feel small and then have academics tell you it’s culture,” ... “But David wanted none of that so he built this place underground.”

Visitors are given an iPod touch that uses GPS to work out which artwork they are standing in front of, then gives a running commentary from Walsh himself, interviews with the artists and plenty more. That all comes via a button on the iPod marked “Art Wank”

From the lobby, a spiral staircase descends 17 meters underground, ending in a cathedral-like basement cordoned by a 250-million-year-old Triassic sandstone wall that Walsh, who once described himself as a “rabid atheist,” left exposed to challenge creationists on their beliefs.

What follows are three levels of steel and stone festooned with art and objects based around sex, death and evolution that are concurrently shocking, educational and entertaining.

To impart just a taste of the museum, first among these is a chocolate sculpture of the remains of a Chechen suicide bomber. Yes, chocolate.

One level up, a wall has been lined with white porcelain molds of female genitalia, while another wall shows a very large image of a man engaged in an unhealthy act with a dog.

A room-sized machine made of giant test tubes fed by a series of pumps parodies the digestive tract by turning food into a brown gooey paste, while an engorged and distended Porsche Carrera sagging with fat offers comment on mindless overindulgence.

Then there’s “Bit.fall,” a “rain-painting machine” created by German born artist Julius Popp. Spanning two stories, this multi-million dollar contraption uses 128 computer-controlled nozzles to drip cascades of water in the shape of phrases selected daily from news websites. You really need to see it, of course.

Sprinkled among these masterpieces of modern art, as though there were never a reason to keep them apart, are selections from Walsh’s private collection of antiquities.

They include a 1,500-year-old Egyptian sarcophagus, gold coins taken from one of the statues at the Partheon in Athens and a collage made of Neolithic flints.

MONA is built on the ground of Moorilla Estate, Tasmania’s second-oldest vineyard...Visitors can also stay the night at one of eight luxurious art-laden pavilions inspired by shipping containers and stylish A-frame homes of the 1960s that look like Darth Vader’s lair.

Combined with an outdoor concert stage set on a grassy hillock, a book shop, jewelry store and the scenic river bush land setting, it’s little wonder MONA topped “Gourmet Traveller” magazine’s list of the top 100 places to visit in the world.


Ian Lloyd Neubauer is a Sydney-based freelance journalist specializing in adventure travel.
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