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Museum of Old and New Art

Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) offers a strange day out, but a satisfying one. The food offerings, however, leave much to be desired.

The last time I travelled to Hobart I was a very young man. Since then, the city has grown and developed, and the famous Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has arisen in the north-western suburb of Berriedale. I was keen to have a look at this much-hyped art gallery without having a really good sense of what I would encounter.

I was in the company of a young child, so we arrived via car. The gallery discourages this; preferring its guests to arrive via ferry but we persisted. MONA warned that car parking was limited but we managed to get a spot at 10am. Finding the entrance was a small challenge but an enjoyable one as even the path to the “rear” entrance (the waterfront is the “front”) is filled with all sorts of interesting landscape features and art.

The walk from the car park to the front entrance of MONA was filled with interest.

Entry to the gallery itself is via a descending cylindrical lift that takes one down three levels into the subterranean building. One enters the gallery to see walls carved from the earth and concrete waffle-ceilings reminiscent of mid-twentieth century Brutalism.

One of my favourite works on display in the lower level was “Bit.Fall” by Julius Popp. Small droplets are released and as they fall, they spell out random words rather like a dot-matix printer. It is difficult to represent the effectiveness of this work with still images, but it is impressive.

“Bit.Drop” by Julius Popp at MONA.
The marvel of Julius Popp’s “Bit.Drop”

Another favourite work of mine was an interactive piece by Ryoji Ikeda’s called “Supersymmetry”. Here, a room was filled with illuminated screens and projectors that displayed a range of different scientific outputs, coupled with strobe lighting (epileptics, beware) and static sounds. It was bright and dark, loud and flashy and I loved it, as did the rest of the family including the preschooler. Again, still photos struggle to depict the work, but you can read more about it on Ikeda’s website.

Ryoji Ikeda’s “Supersymmetry”

The “white library” was another favourite piece, hidden in a small side-gallery.

White Library

The gallery was filled with all sorts of contrasts; a 4000-year-old Egyptian engraving sat beside a modern piece of textile art. Exhibits were hidden behind curtains or in other unexpected places. Wandering the gallery offered continuous enjoyment for the whole family.

Interior of the Museum of Old and New Art.

There are some exhibits that contain “adult” content but these are flagged and easily avoided for those who are in the company of minors.

The one disappointment was the luncheon fare – there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on “surprising” and unexpected foods but for those with food intolerances such as myself, selecting something suitable suddenly became an unpleasant experience. The food that I ordered – whilst artistic – was fairly unpalatable. When we headed back into the gallery to an outlet that sold “pizzas and cocktails”, they’d sold out of pizza at 12:30pm. We left MONA fairly hungry, and the food that was purchased was not cheap.

In the end, the lunch problems paled into insignificance when contrasted with the rest of the experience. Owing to the company I was in, I expected to only be there for a couple of hours but we were there for much of the day. If I was just in adult company, I could have spent an entire day there easily.

MONA was good fun, and I’d happily recommend for anyone visiting Hobart.



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