A TALE OF UNEXPECTED AND SUBTERRANEAN ART
Visiting Mona is like participating in something very chill…dark, confronting, atmospheric, engaging, and intriguing…It is Australia’s largest privately owned museum.
Even arriving there is an experience, on board the owner's vessel. On my recent visit, I journeyed up the river in the chilled and seafog bound Derwent River. My thoughts dwelt on that iconic film, 'Apocalypse Now', as we berthed in the quiet coldness and damp of the winter's morn. Since opening its doors, Mona has become notorious in the Artworld, for its non-conformist Attitude- with a capital A. The museum is carved out of a sandstone cliff face, beneath Sir Roy Ground’s pair of architect-designed houses - the ‘Round House’ and ‘Courtyard House’ of Moorilla Vineyard.
Mona is located on an historic site in Hobart, Tasmania. The land was formerly owned by Claudio Alcorso, an Italian entrepreneur and business founder of the Sheridan Sheet Factory. Alcorso originally established the vineyard and family estate –now known as Moorilla, with its two iconic 1950’s houses, on a prime piece of land jutting out into the Derwent River.
Experiencing the art at Mona is matched by its amazing architectural space. The architecture of the building delights - it is so site specific, with its cavernous internal sandstone wall carved out of the subterranean rock face.
It is located on the banks of the Derwent River in Hobart, Tasmania. Mona defies the traditional museum genre in every sense of the word. It is just something else…
Subterranean and Weird: Awe-Inspiring
Everything about Mona is subterranean and weird in an awe-inspiring way. As one progresses through a dark labyrinthine series of spaces viewing art, the experience evolves into a pot pourri of the weird, wonderful and the ancient.
When we visited there with our young French visitor, Edmee, it was a water installation that first attracted our attention, with its bands of regulated droplets falling from a height to form words. My subsequent visit recently, also yielded surprises.
The first artwork to greet us is called bit.fall, by Julius Pop. It sources its words from information sites on the internet and ‘translates’ them into drops of water as, in the artist's own words, ‘a metaphor for the incessant flood of information we are exposed to’.
The experience of art at Mona is bound together by an amazing architectural space. The architecture of the building delights- it is site specific, with its cavernous internal sandstone wall carved out of the subterranean rock face.
Moffatt and Nolan
I was delighted to see Tracey Moffatt's series of nine photographs entitled ‘Something More’. Three are black and white: six are cibachrome. This work is narrative, ambiguous, intriguing, and probably her best-known work, with its cinematic qualities.
There are confronting themes of death-inspired works, human sexuality, the shock of the new, the ancient and the macabre.
There is the fascinating scale of giant library of weathered grey falling books, which is the central focus of an entire room.
And the Nolan Gallery- all 51 square metres of a curved wall, which exclusively houses Sidney Nolan’s ‘Snake’.
More Surprises: Ancient Egyptian Coffins!
Just when I thought there could be no more surprises, I came upon a pair of Ancient Egyptian coffins. I read “Early 26th dynasty C 730-600 BC.” That’s Before Christ. OMG! This is amazingly old... In fact there are really ancient relics in here, like the Neolithic projection points, all magnificently exhibited.
These gallery spaces are built to envelope the artwork: some of it is of a massive scale, like Encyclopedia 2005, by Charles Sandison, which takes up a ten metre long wall, with its pulsating data projections.
O (pod) guiding devices are a cool use of technology... On the ‘O’ device I read about each curated piece…I love how I can record my personal tour, upload it to the Mona website for reference, and later, using a 3D model to retrace my path, relive the experience vicariously.
Cultural Gift to the People Of Tasmania
Behind the international sensation that is Mona Museum of Old and New Art is its creator- David Walsh. This museum is his amazing cultural gift to the people of Tasmania.
After finally emerging from the cave like interior, hours later, I am left in awe, fascinated and immersed in thinking about art in new ways. And as I sip the finest champagne from the cellardoor of Moorilla vineyard, I contemplate the stories of what was and what is now.
And like the moth to the flickering light, I am drawn back again and again to the world that is …Mona.
Cited reading: Adrian Franklin, The Making of Mona, Penguin, 2014.
Photography copy-write by Catherine de Boer