Our holiday in Hobart over Christmas included a visit to MONA, Hobart’s iconic and unique Museum of Old and New Art. We took the distinctively painted, distinctly un-camouflaged MONA Roma ferry to MONA, buying tickets from the ferry terminal at the Brooke Street pier.
There are two classes of ferry ticket: General (AU$20 return, which is what we chose) and Posh Pit (AU$50 return) which gives you priority boarding and disembarking, access to an exclusive lounge, bar and private deck with table service, complimentary canapes and beverages, including drinks from MONA’s own brewery and winery.
Our General tickets got us a very comfortable 30-minute ride each way across the Derwent River, with toilets, cafe and bar onboard. The MONA Roma provides a taste of what’s to come at the museum – the quirky and unexpected: we shared the upper deck with a cow statue (we were in cattle class, after all) and fibreglass sheep that proved to be the most coveted seats in the house.
MONA first opened in 2011, described by its millionaire founder David Walsh as “subversive Disneyland for adults.” It’s Australia’s largest privately-funded museum, with 6,000+ square metres of display space over three floors. There is no natural light inside the museum – it is dark and easy to get lost, but I think that’s a deliberate part of its design.
There are 99 steps on arrival, so if you have mobility problems you should speak with MONA staff ahead of time about alternative access. Be prepared to do a lot of walking to get the most out of your time in MONA.
MONA is not a traditional museum, and certainly provides a memorable experience. There are no signs or labels at the exhibits. Instead, as we walked in, we were each handed a pair of headphones and an ‘O’, an iPod set to run an interactive app, with in-built GPS that senses where its holder is standing, displaying information about the exhibits in the immediate area.
On the O, in addition to the traditional art gallery information (artist name, medium etc), you can rate the works (love or hate), listen to interviews with the artists, click on ‘Art Wank’ for, well, art wank, and ‘Gonzo’ for ahem, very random, rambling commentary. You can save the path you’ve personally taken through MONA and view it on your personal computer later, share artworks on social media and even find out what exhibits you missed (bummer!).
It’s free to use the O during your visit, and you simply return it as you leave. People who take easily to electronic gadgets will enjoy using the O. If you use reading glasses, make sure you don’t forget them.
Children are welcome at MONA, but parents should note while there are exhibits that will fascinate and entertain kids, there are others that are explicit and/or disturbing, and they’re there in all their confronting glory waiting to be stumbled upon. You can avoid them if you’re vigilant, but it could be tricky to stay ahead of active, curious kids. The MONA map (available in hard copy at MONA and downloadable in PDF on the MONA website) includes some warnings, but doesn’t cover it all. Awkward conversations and potential nightmare fodder aside, there is also a lot to get through. I ran out of attention span before I had seen everything on all three floors (more a reflection of me than of the museum).
We took a break for lunch at the bustling cafe, joining the long line of people waiting to order. A fish cake for Caroline, meatball sandwich for Craig, and a slice of lemon meringue pie which they shared. I wasn’t very hungry (yes, rare, but it does happen!), so Jac and I split a roast pork bahn mi baguette.
We didn’t sit out on the lawn because of intermittent light rain, but those who braved it were entertained by free-roaming chickens who strutted about like they owned the place.
There was beauty, irreverence and diabolical imagination. I chortled, squinted, and looked away. I was intrigued, uplifted, and repulsed. As we emerged from the building several hours later, I was a tangle of conflicting needs, stimulated yet drained from sensory and cerebral overload, dazzled by the sunshine and ready to escape.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
655 Main Road, Berriedale
Hobart, Tasmania 7011
Telephone: (03) 6277 9900
MONA Opening Hours
Wednesday to Monday
Museum admission: adults AU$20, concession $15. Free for Tasmanian residents.
Check the website for the most up-to-date information.
We caught the Mona Roma fast Ferry. Ferry tickets do not include admission to MONA.
We ate lunch at the cafe, but there’s also a bar, restaurant (The Source), winery (Moorilla) and brewery (Moo Brew) onsite.
MONA’s website is also unconventional – the description of the MONA Shop reads: “Please buy something from our shop. There is all sorts of shit here.”
About this series
In December 2013, my partner Jac and I went on holiday – 3 nights in Melbourne, then 3 nights in Launceston (Jac, to stay with a friend) and King Island (me, for a photographic safari with our friends Craig and Caroline), and finally, Hobart for 6 nights. This trip was not sponsored in any way.
The full list of posts is below:
- Short stories: Mount Wellington
- Christmas lunch at the Salamanca Inn
- The Quarry Salamanca
- MONA, Hobart – this post
- A food lovers’ day out on Bruny Island
- Salamanca Market
- Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
- Cascade Brewery tour
- The Taste of Tasmania
- Two bakeries and a half-laundromat – three cafes in Hobart, Tasmania