It is slightly odd, I grant you, to be assigning icon status to a museum that has only been operating for five years. But there is nothing elsewhere in Australia that comes close to MONA, as it is known; its impacts both locally and as a reason to visit Hobart have been immediate and dramatic; and it is truly remarkable. Remarkable in scale, in construction, in the fact that it is privately-funded (by one man), and in the monumental and ‘out there’ qualities of the modern art on display. (The ‘old’ art component is a collection of antiquities.)
If I tried to tell you about its history, I’d have to find it at other sources, such as this one. And I’m not able to share many images of the art on display, as our camera was not really up to the task within the museum’s guidelines. If you go to this page on MONA’s own site, you will discover some of what we saw, beginning with the mesmerising-but-not-titillating Cunts and other conversations
So, I will simply share a brief account of our experience and some of our outdoor photos. That is, once I have told you about my family’s close connection to MONA.
Before the current owner purchased the property, it was a vineyard and winery. After the winery became firmly established, its owner commissioned a renowned architect to design a home for his family and a home for his mother. The architect was Roy Grounds, the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather.
The main structure of MONA incorporates elements of the family home, notably the fireplace, while the mother’s home, known as The Round House, sits, unaltered, below MONA and functions as a private library.
To reach MONA, most visitors use the museum’s own ferry service, which takes about 25 minutes to complete the journey up the Derwent River from its dock at Hobart. After you alight from the ferry, you have to climb 100 steps to the top of the hill on which MONA sits, and when you enter the museum you come upon the aforementioned fireplace.
The museum’s exhibits are displayed below ground level in vast spaces that have been created within the sandstone that lies beneath MONA’s prominent location. We used the museum’s innovative hand-held guide to make our way around, using the electronic voting system to express our responses to what we saw. Our favourite work was The Snake, by Sidney Nolan. (Google will take you to numerous pics of this incredible work.)
From the museum, we explored MONA’s vast outdoor spaces, which display artworks that are just as dramatic as those indoors. And, of course, we made our way to The Round House – something of a pilgrimage in my clan – before catching the MONA ferry back to the city, enjoying a glass of the still-working-winery’s excellent pinot noir on the way.