Love it or hate it the Museum of Old + New Art, affectionately known as Mona, is a must-see.
It is shocking.
It is thought-provoking.
It makes you smile and grimace in equal parts, and it’s a mind boggling inclusion in any visit to Tasmania.
Here are the nuts of bolts of how to make the most of Mona…
What Is Mona?
- Mona was launched by David Walsh in 2011. Walsh is a pretty handy card player and won a bucket of money at casinos all around the World. He used this money to develop the most gob-smacking art gallery-restaurant-hospitality-entertainment complex for the benefit of Tasmanians (first and foremost) and it has truly nudged Hobart onto the World stage.
The Art Gallery is three-layers deep underground, literally burying you in art, sculpture and installations.
- As the name indicates, the Gallery contains both old and new art. There are paintings by famous Australian artists, ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, and the most modern neon, electronic art installation. You don’t have to love every piece, but it is possible to acknowledge the skill involved in their design and construction.
How Do You Get to Mona?
- For a beautiful introduction to Mona, I recommend catching the Mona Roma Fast Ferry from the Brooke Street Pier at Hobart’s Constitution Dock. Not only is it a scenic trip up the Derwent River, the ferries are art works in themselves, full of quirky sculpture and murals.
If boats don’t appeal, Mona also has a bus service, departing from the Brooke Street Pier. Alternatively you can connect to Mona by bus to/from the Hobart airport. Don’t worry, there are plenty of lockers at Mona to store your luggage.
- Hire a Mona pushbike (also from the Brooke Street Pier) and follow the Intercity cycleway from the Hobart CBD. It takes around 40 minutes one way.
- Drive your own car although onsite parking is limited.
What Does Mona Cost?
- One of the many amazing things about this Gallery is that entry is free for all Tasmanians. What a gift David Walsh has given to his community.
- For non-Tasmanians, standard entry is $30pp and you can spend all day there if you have the stamina.
The Mona Roma Fast Ferry costs $22pp return for a standard ticket or you can go the whole hog and purchase a Posh Pit ticket ($55pp return) which gives you access to an open bar and snacks. While this sounds like a fun option, the trip only takes 30minutes so you would need to drink/eat fast to get your money’s worth. I love the description in Mona brochure. It says that the Posh Pit is the perfect opportunity for you to “escape the riff raff” and “includes tiny food and inflated egos”.
- I recommend you buy your Gallery entry ticket at the same time as you purchase your ferry tickets. It means you avoid any queues at the Gallery and walk straight in.
How to Navigate Mona?
- Warning: Mona is overwhelming! It is an overload to the senses and you need to be ready for that. This starts with the fact that you begin your gallery experience three floors underground!
It is also quite confusing in its layout and there is only minimal signage. You need to be ready to go with the flow.
- Never fear though, there are a couple of good tools to help you move around Mona and get the most out of your visit:
- Staff: There are plenty of staff throughout the Gallery and they are unfailingly helpful, and happy to answer any questions.
- Printed Maps: Collect a map from the Entry/Ground Level before you descend into the bowels of the artistic Earth.
- The ‘O’: Once you get down to B3 (ground zero), collect your ‘O’. An ‘O’ is an Iphone loaded with all the information about the Gallery and the individual artworks. Simply walk up to an artwork and press the ‘O’ button and it will reveal all the relevant information about the piece before you. Very clever and such an environmentally friendly option i.e. no paper.
- ‘O’ App: Download Mona’s ‘O’ App to your Iphone before you arrive or when you get there using their free WIFI. At this stage there is no app for Android. Instead, grab an ‘O’ when you hit B3.
- Prepare to be frustrated. If you are like me, you may like to work your way systematically through galleries, feeling like you have covered all the main features. Not at Mona! The eclectic design, the many corridors, split levels, and the general darkness, continually made me feel like I had missed something or was missing whole sections of the Gallery. In fact, when we finally surfaced at Ground Level and compared notes, we all had had quite different experiences.
What Else Do You Need to Know About Mona?
- Large handbags and backpacks must be stored in the free lockers.
- Water bottles are not allowed in the Gallery itself.
- Cameras are allowed which was different to when we visited just after Mona opened in 2011.
- Restore and regroup at the café at Ground Level or at one of the many restaurants, bars, brewery or cellar door. You are sure to find something to tantalise your tastebuds.
- Take home your own piece of Mona from the gift shop or shop online (shop.mona.net.au)
- Mona is closed on Tuesdays.
- Mona is not going to be to everyone’s taste, but it is a must-see. I am definitely no art expert or culture vulture, but I love it for its sheer cleverness and willingness to completely disregard political correctness.
- Consider dipping into and out of Mona. It is so overwhelming it can be exhausting. Your ticket allows entry all day so pace yourself.
- The exhibition changes constantly with new installations and showcase exhibits. The perfect excuse for a return visit.
- This was my second visit and this time I tried to ‘chill’ and just enjoy the different works. I didn’t try to read everything about every piece and I found it a whole lot less tiring.
Are you a Mona fan?
What other galleries would you recommend?
What: The Gallery is described as David Walshe’s “…one man’s ‘megaphone’ … and what he wants to say almost invariably revolves around the place of art and creativity within the definition of humanity. We know that sounds lofty, self-important. But we must be honest with you: our goal is no more, nor less, than to ask what art is, and what makes us look and look at it with ceaseless curiosity. We don’t have the answer yet. Maybe when we do, that will be the end of Mona”.
Where: 655 Main Rd, Berriedale – approximately 11km North of Hobart.
When: We visited pre-Covid. Mona is open from 10am-6pm, every day except Tuesday. Check opening hours before you visit as it does vary by season.
Why: To satisfy your curiosity or develop a whole new curiosity.
How: Every known transport option is available! Just get there.
Who: This Gallery may not be suitable for people who are easily offended and some of the artworks are a little R-rated. Carefully pick and choose what you show the kiddies.
Related Posts: When too much art is never enough, check out a visit to the Archibald Prize at the NSW Art Gallery.
Related Blogs: Get it straight from the horse’s or gallery-owner’s mouth. Read what David has to say about anything art-related or anything he damn well pleases.
Read About It: Still wanting more Walsh-wisdom? Yes, he is an author too. Grab your copy of Monaism by David Walsh from the Mona store or for 12 187 different books about Modern Art, go straight to Book Depository.
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