The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is home to an incredible collection of art. The museum, which is located in Hobart, Tasmania, exhibits paintings, sculptures, drawings and various installations from antiquities to modern art. MONA houses the art collection of Tasmanian millionaire, David Walsh, who established the museum. And there are often rotating exhibits that feature a particular artist or art style at MONA.
When you see MONA from the entrance, you only see the tip of the iceberg. The museum is built into a hill and has four levels, three of which are mostly underground. The collection is laid out to be viewed from bottom to top, starting at level B3. Along the way through MONA, you’ll encounter a controversial and confronting collection of art. For example, there are 77 life-size porcelain sculptures of women’s vaginas as well as the remains of a suicide bomber cast in dark chocolate on display. And of course there is the Cloaca Professional, a machine that literally produces poop (feeding times at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily; pooping time at 2 p.m. daily). But if you approach MONA with an open mind, you’ll enjoy the diversity of the works and the thought-provoking nature of the exhibits.
One of my favorite pieces in MONA is the sound installation in the tunnel to the library. As people walk along, it creates music, and the more people there are, the more sound that is made. Another one I really enjoyed was the trampoline that is just outside the entrance of the museum. It has bells attached to the bottom of the trampoline, so as you jump they ring and create music. It’s a great deal of fun and makes you feel like a child again. I really appreciate that MONA offers interactive works of art, so that you can feel like you are part of the museum experience rather than merely observing art work.
Bit.Fall is another installation I really liked. It’s a machine that retrieves words from the Internet and “writes” them in drops of water that briefly shape the word and then fall to the ground. It’s mesmerizing to watch. I also enjoyed Artifact, which is a giant head with small windows to peer into the “dreaming” mind. It’s another mesmerizing piece that seems to change as you continue to watch and peer in from different angles.
The O is the museum’s system for labeling the artwork; there aren’t any labels or information posted on the walls of MONA. Rather, collect an iPod from the information desk as you enter the museum (free of charge), and you’ll have ample information about the artwork available at your fingertips. The device tracks your movement through MONA, so it detects which works of art are in your vicinity. The name, year and a picture of the pieces will appear on the device as you move around. Just click on the work you want to learn more about.
The system has a plethora of information, including interviews with the artist, curator and/or David Walsh; the materials used to create the artwork; and media items associated with the piece. The O also keeps record of your visit through MONA, which you can email to yourself and retrieve later to relive the experience or learn more about the different things you saw or perhaps missed. Do be sure to return the device as you leave the museum.
Dining and Drinking at MONA
MONA is built on the beautiful grounds of the Moorilla Winery. Visit the cellar door for tastings, which are $10 per person (redeemable upon purchase). If you’d like to see more of the winery, book to join the 1 hour tour and tasting experience, which is available Wednesday through Monday at 3:30 p.m. for $15 per person.
If you prefer beer, you can also try Moo Brew every day except Tuesdays at MONA. The actual Brewery is located offsite, but nearby. The cellar door is open for tasting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. Tours and tastings of the brewery are available on Fridays (excluding public holidays) at 12:45 p.m. for $30 per person.
The Source Restaurant serves up French cuisine. Breakfast is available from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and lunch is available from noon Wednesday through Monday. Dinner is available Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m.
You also have options inside the museum. Void Bar is located on level B3 and is the perfect place to start the journey around MONA with a drink. The Museum Café is located on the ground level and offers snacks, desserts and beverages.
MONA FOMA (or MOFO as it is doubly abbreviated to) is a music and art festival held at MONA and various places around Hobart each January. The annual summer event celebrates contemporary music and displays a diverse range of art forms, and hence FOMA stands for Festival of Music and Art. Some of the art forms showcased at the festival include dance, theater and visual art. Visit the MOFO website for the current lineup and locations, and to book tickets. There is also a wintertime version, called Dark MOFO, which is held annually in June. Visit the Dark MOFO website to book tickets and see the lineup, etc.
Getting to MONA
The options for getting to MONA are quite extensive. You can hire a bike and ride to the museum, hop on one of the express buses from either Hobart CBD or the airport, or of course travel by taxi. If you chose to drive to MONA, note that free car parking is available, but spots fill up quickly. A few public buses also travel past the museum, but times are limited. You can even take a helicopter to MONA, but be sure to book ahead!
I recommend arriving to MONA via the ferry. The MR-1 Fast Ferry travels from Brooke Street ferry terminal in Hobart along the River Derwent to MONA. The trip takes about 30 minutes and offers incredible views of Hobart and the surrounding area along the way. It’s a great way to combine a river cruise with transportation to the museum. Basic tickets are $20 one-way or return. Or for $50, you can travel in the Posh Pit, where you have access to a private lounge and complimentary drinks and snacks. Departure times from the city and MONA change depending on the season, so check out the website to find the time that best suits your visit.
I recommend taking at least three hours to explore the museum. There is a lot to see, and you don’t want to be racing around. If you really enjoy reading about the art pieces, artists or information of acquiring the art, plan on half a day or more. The O system has extensive information available about each piece, so you’re able to learn a great deal about the art you will see. And, of course, the architecture and layout of MONA is worth appreciating, so set some time aside to walk around the grounds.
The museum is open Wednesday through Monday with extended hours in summer. Tickets for MONA range from $15 to $25 depending on the time of year and if you have concession, but entry is free for Tasmanian residents or anyone under 18 years old. For more information about the museum, to book tickets and to see what’s currently on, visit the museum’s website. The site will also connect you to the winery, brewery, accommodation and transportation information.