MONA, Hobart

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.

The Mona Roma ferryThe Mona Roma ferry looking very ‘Sea Patrol’

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.

The coolest seats on the ferry are the sheep

The Mona Roma toiletsThe garishly painted toilets on the Mona Roma. Like many of the pieces at MONA, worth a second look but not necessarily easy to look at.

Cafe onboard Cafe onboard The ferry cafe and bar.

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.

Making our way to the MONAMy knees complained, but I made it.

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).

Poo machine Poo machine Cloaca Professional by Wim Delwoye (2010) – probably better known as ‘The poo machine’, Cloaca Professional is fed daily, digests the food and produces solid excrement (I took a close-up photo of said excrement but have chosen not to share it here). You don’t really need the O to inform you Cloaca Professional is nearby – you’ll know by the smell, though I found it more fart-like than poo-like. There are number of Cloaca installations around the world – Cloaca Professional was custom-built for MONA.

SydneyOn Perspective and Motion – Part II by Daniel Crooks (2006). I liked this piece very much as I recognised Martin Place in Sydney where it was filmed, with 7 cameras strapped to a wheelchair in a fan formation to create the mesmerising 7-channel effect. It made me think I must plan another trip to Sydney sometime this year.

Fat car Fat car Fat Car by Erwin Wurm (2006) – Porsche Carrera chassis, body and interior, with polystyrene and fibreglass. A bloated car to make a statement about consumerism. Just about every child (and a few adults) couldn’t resist touching the shiny puffed up red car.

Queen (A Portrait of Madonna)  by Candice Breitz (2005) - for this 30-channel video installation, the artist asked 30 fans of Madonna to sing a cappella and solo, the songs from Madonna's Immaculate Collection album Queen (A Portrait of Madonna) by Candice Breitz (2005) – for this 30-channel video installation, the artist asked 30 fans of Madonna to sing (solo and a cappella) the songs from Madonna’s Immaculate Collection album. I’m nowhere as big a fan of Madonna as these guys, but was hard not to sing along… ‘Like a virgin, hey. Touched for the very first time.’

Words Words bit.fall by Julius Popp (2001-2006). We heard this piece in action before we saw it. Words from news and information sites on the internet are ‘translated’ into a word waterfall. The words magically appear and drop, one by one.

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.

MONA Cafe MONA Cafe display case: another kind of art.

Fish cakeCaroline’s fish cake, served with rocket, lemon and tartare sauce.

Meatball sandwichCraig’s meatball sandwich with pesto and grated cheese.

Pumpkin piePumpkin pie, with a marshmallow cream topping

 Roast pork bahn miOur very flavoursome 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.

Chooks roam free in the gardenChooks roam free on the lawn – hope that’s not a chicken pie he’s eating. But then, that would be very MONA, I think…

Waiting for ferry timeWaiting for ferry time.

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.

Lining up for the return ferryLining up for the return ferry.

SheepThe sheep

Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
655 Main Road, Berriedale
Hobart, Tasmania 7011
Telephone: (03) 6277 9900

MONA Opening Hours
Wednesday to Monday
10am-6pm
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:

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  • Craig Hind

    Awesome. I found the place fascinating, but not really something that I’d need to go back to… Until I saw your photos and now I wouldn’t mind going again. Maybe not our next trip, but certainly one again in the further out future.

    One area that was clearly not child friendly was the room lined with red velvet curtains and very reminiscent of Twin Peaks. I imagined I would find a dwarf speaking backwards somewhere in there. Probably one of the more explicit areas of MONA.

    I love the dark, moody and mysterious B&W photo of the Cloaca Professional at the top of the page!

    • Jac told me about a couple of very graphic items she saw that I missed – the kind of thing that burns itself into your memory, not necessarily for good reasons, and once seen can never be un-seen…

  • Sandra

    Wow! Looks pretty fascinating. The Cloaca Pro, sounds hilarious! You can’t spell FART without ART after all…

    • Sandra,
      Hahahaha good pickup! :P Some people were quite disgusted by it, others (like me) were fascinated.

  • I’ve heard so much about MONA from people who found it confronting and weird (in-laws) to people who found it stimulating and artsy (friends). I think it probably takes a certain type of person to appreciate it! It’ll definitely be on my list if I ever go to Tasmania. :)

    • Amanda, yes – it’s not a place I would recommend for anyone prudish or with very conservative tastes in art. Some pieces will be confronting even to open-minded people, I reckon.