Friday, March 16, 2012

MONA Gets Her Own Post

There’s so much that was fantastic about Hobart – the Salamanca Markets, Mt Wellington, Parliament – but there’s one thing that really stood out.  Her name:  MONA.

MONA is the Museum of Old and New Art.  The museum sits on the premises of a winery and also includes a brewery, restaurant, and super swanky hotel.  If that wasn't enough, we stumbled upon another set of markets when we arrived:

They weren’t nearly as big as the Salamanca Markets, but cute nonetheless.  But the best part of it all is the museum itself.  Despite being on a prime waterfront location, the museum is built into a hill so most of it is underground – with the bedrock exposed as some of the walls on the inside.  Opening only last year, the Museum of Old and New Art is the largest privately funded museum in Australia.  Everywhere we went, people would ask us:  “Are you going to the MONA?” or “Have you been to MONA yet?” or “Did you all come to Tasmania to see the MONA?” Apparently people come to Tasmania JUST to see the MONA.  It’s a massive tourist draw.  But why?

All of the artwork inside is from the private collection of the uber-rich David Walsh, a professional gambler from Tasmania.

One dude opened a museum with all his art.  Insane.

What’s even more insane was what was inside.

Penises.  Vaginas.  Lots of art containing penises and vaginas.  And poop.  And ancient Egyptian relics.  And paintings.

Let me explain.

As the name suggests, the museum has both old and new art.  An example of old art is this larnax, or chest-shaped coffin, from Crete.  It dates back to the Late Minoan Period around 1300 BCE.

An example of new art was this uber-contemporary painting which caught my eye:

But then all the art got weird.  Really weird.  And the penises and vaginas came out.

Wow.  And they put this shocking painting right next to this:

An ancient Egyptian sarcophagus.  Right next to that painting of the man with the lady parts.  It somehow seems sacrilegious.  But it somehow seems super cool.  You may expect to find a place like this in Berlin, Amsterdam, or San Francisco.  Even Sydney or Melbourne would have a much better chance of having something like this than little Hobart.  But Hobart has it – adding to the city’s charm, diversity, and outright awesomeness.  Insane!  And you know what else is insane?  The “B” word.  And I’m not even going to spell it out.

Ok.  Wow.  After that, I think we need to bring it back down a level.  How about kisses on paper?

How sweet!  Kisses on paper!  Simple yet cute.  One of the super cool things about the MONA is that there are no plaques with the painters’ names or descriptions on the walls next to the artwork.  When you enter, the friendly staff hand you a weird version of an iPod Touch.  Linked into the museum’s wifi, the iPod uses your location within the museum to pull up all of the art around you.  No more crowding around trying to read a tiny little narrative over the heads of fourteen art snobs.  The little handheld device included audio and everything!  So, let’s look up these kisses on paper and see what it says:

Anal Kisses!  Anal Kisses!  Just when I thought it couldn’t get any weirder.  Those prints were made by assholes.  Literally.

“Hey Cade… Vince… Michael:  Do you smell that?  What is that?  It’s coming from the next room.”

Holy shit it’s a poop machine.  The MONA has a poop machine.  Actually, the MONA had two poop machines when we were there, but only one was permanent.  This machine simulates conditions in the stomach, intestines, and other parts of the digestive tract that I can’t name because I’m not a doctor.  It gets fed normal human food, which then passes through each chamber for processing.  And then, the machine poops.  On schedule.  Just like old people who take Metamucil.

And there it is, people.  And yes:  it really did smell like shit.

So, the MONA was absolutely insane and a must see if visiting Tasmania.  It's huge and we spent several hours there just looking at everything.  And I would agree that visiting the MONA is probably reason enough to fly down to Hobart, but you might as well spend a few days and see all of the other great stuff too!  I’ll leave you all with what I think was probably my favourite piece from the museum:

A series of x-rayed rats re-enacting the Stations of the Cross.