Described by its owner David Walsh as a “subversive adult Disneyland”, MONA is Australia's largest private museum and one of the most controversial private collections of modern art and antiquities in the world. This unique and provocative art collection will leave a lasting impression with visitors as they explore 3 floors of subterranean architecture, art pieces, and exhibits.
The 3.5 ha site includes the Source restaurant, a function centre, Moorilla winery and vineyard, a cellar door, wine bar, cinema, library, and accommodation pavilions (and Moo Brew, an off site brewery).
MONA also hosts two major annual festivals, the outdoor MOFO festival in the summer, and the wintertime Dark Mofo festival. Both feature large-scale public art, live performances, and plenty of opportunities for excellent food and drink.
Whether you love it or hate it, MONA has indisputedly put Tasmania on the map. For 2013, Lonely Planet named Hobart as one of its top-10 destinations to visit worldwide, highlighting MONA as a key attraction. International tourism has since boomed and drawn in people from around the world who are attracted to this edgy, cultural phenomena.
The general collection houses 1900 pieces and counting, and is continually changing and evolving. Be prepared to see celebrated pieces, as well as those that are newly installed. The museum was built to accommodate Sidney Nolan's Snake (1970-72), a giant Rainbow Serpent mural made of 1,620 paintings. Dedicated to sex and death, the museum features many exhibits that will both enthrall and turn-off unexpecting visitors with its in-your-face candor. Case in point, the museum is home to The Great Wall of Vagina, 151 porcelain vulvas sculpted from real women. Another notable work in its inaugural exhibition is the infamous “poo machine”, Wim Delvoye's Cloaca Professional, a machine which turns food into excrement. As the name indicates, these cutting edge exhibits sit alongside antiquated pieces of old such as Egyptian mummies. The curators of MONA are Nicole Durling, Olivier Varenne, and Jarrod Rawlins. Image thanks to Tourism Tasmania & Kim Eijdenberg.
Mona is located at 655 Main Road, Berriedale. Although visitors can reach the museum by car in just 15 minutes from Hobart, many opt to head there by a high speed ferry from Hobart's waterfront for a 30-minute ride up the Derwent River right to the steps of the museum.
For those that want to be dazzled for a lifetime, MONA also offers an unusual membership program called "Eternity Membership", which not only includes lifetime free admission but also earns members the right to be cremated and their remains housed in the MONA Cemetery. Image thanks to Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman.
Depending on your taste for the unusual, a visitor could easily spend anywhere from a few hours to multiple days exploring this underground cultural phenomena.
MONA is open six days a week, closed most Tuesdays.
The Moorilla Museum of Antiquities was the precursor to MONA and founded in 2001. It closed in 2007 to undergo $75 million in renovations. MONA as it is known today was opened on 21 January 2011. In May 2011, it was announced that the museum would end its policy of free entry and introduce an entry fee to interstate and overseas visitors while remaining free for Tasmanians.
Riled with controversy over the years since its inception, owner David Walsh has maintained that its intriguing reputation is good for business. Keeping it fresh and weird has certainly been a key to its success and there is likely to be no shortage of it in the future!
From street level, MONA appears to be a single-story building and there is little indication of the complex wickedness that lies beneath. In fact, most of the museum is actually underground in order to preserve the heritage setting of the two Roy Grounds houses on the property. Construction entailed digging under and around these buildings to keep them intact. Image thanks to Tourism Tasmania & Andrew McIntosh.
On initial inspection, there is not much to see as one enters and it’s easy to feel a strong sense of suspense (this is intended). In order to enter the underground labyrinthe, visitors must descend a spiral staircase to begin the exploration, coming back up one level at a time. There are no windows and one can’t help feel that they’re being swept away into Walsh’s fantasyland. James Pearce was Project Architect for the MONA build. The team was led by Principal Architect Nonda Katsalidis in close collaboration with David Walsh.