Mrs. Selfish and I have been to dozens of museums throughout the course of our Selfish Year. The British Museum. The Louvre. The Trick Eye Museum in Seoul. The Sydney Modern Art Museum. The Port Arthur Museum. None of these could prepare us for Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art.
The MONA was built and owned by David Walsh, Tasmania’s millionaire gambler, who earned his fortune by developing his own horse racing gambling techniques. The museum opened in January 2011 and holds hundreds of pieces, ranging from ancient Egyptian pieces, to modern art pieces showcasing the work of Madonna, to a machine that simulates the human digestive system and poops twice a day.
It’s fun. It’s shocking. It’s thought-provoking. It’s cutting-edge. In Walsh’s own words it’s the “subversive Disney World for adults.”
Even the building is awesome.
Getting there and tickets
The Mona has a ferry that departs from the dock area of Hobart. To visitors that haven’t done any online research, the ferry is probably the first indication that this isn’t your typical museum.
Ferry-goers have two options for tickets. A $20 normal round trip ticket, or the $50 posh-pit option. Guess which one we chose.
The posh pit serves canapés, and bottomless drinks for the half an hour to and from the MONA, serving champagne, wine, and beer from the MONA’s own brewery and winery. They also serve coffee, but who wants that at 11am in the morning? Sober people, that’s who.
From there you’ll walk up 99 steps to the entrance of the museum, checking out some crazy wireframe sculptures on the way up.
Unfortunately, the ferry ticket does not include the price of the museum itself. Tickets cost $20 AUD per person, but is free to Tasmanian residents and children under the age of 18. So that’s not so bad.
Enter the Insanity
After buying our ticket, Mrs. Selfish and I headed down to Basement 3, the start of the museum. Upon entering, we were handed our own iPod Touch, which was outfitted with the MONA’s custom-made interface.
The iPod is actually pretty sophisticated, tracking your progress as you head through the museum. This allows you to read up on each exhibit, telling you about the artist or the artwork itself.
More importantly, it also allows you to vote on each exhibit with either a “love” or “hate” option – which helps determine what exhibits stay or leave the museum. Give it an email address and you can even have it email you a list of the exhibits you saw when you get home.
*** SPOILER ALERT *** THE FOLLOWING IS A TON OF PICTURES FROM SOME OF THE COOLER EXHIBITS WITH BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS. IF YOU’RE THINKING OF GOING TO THE MONA AND WANT TO GO IN FRESH, SKIP TO THE FOOD SECTION. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The light bulb measures the participant’s heart rate and pulses the bulb in time. There’s a whole row of them, so I imagine it rotates various peoples’ pulses in.
Chocolate suicide bomber sculpture.
Difficult ping-pong table, cat rug, inflatable city, and trampoline rigged with bells on the underside.
Hell and paradise exhibit – a number of old TVs show interviews with people from a poor rural town in Turkey, contrasted with a Dr. Suess room with interviews of people from Orange County, Los Angeles.
Ancient coins and hieroglyphics.
Awesome exhibit featuring thousands of dead insects and animals posed in insane situations.
Cloaca Professional – Crazy pooping machine. The staff feeds it food once a day and it is then artificially digested with farts and all. The machine poops twice a day – check your museum pamphlet for pooping times. Sadly, the staff will not feed it its own poop – so no human centipeding here, folks!
No idea. Super creepy though.
Perfect reflective water in Room of the Dead area – Egyptian themed.
Fat car – a criticism of consumerism, of course.
Buddha made from the ashes taken from Buddhist temples.
The craziness is not just limited to the museum exhibits, however. Even the bathrooms can be a bit strange. For instance, the bathrooms on the bottom floor are outfitted with a system of mirrors that allow the viewer to peer into the toilet while they’re on it!
Eating and Drinking at the MONA
In addition to the on site café, the MONA has its own brewery and winery. Mrs. Selfish and I stepped into the bar shortly before catching the last ferry back to our hotel.
We ordered fresh oysters and a glass of the MONA’s Sauvignon Blanc, before heading over to the winery for a tasting.
The wines were excellent and the view was lovely – a good end to an awesome museum – or perhaps a good time to take a break before heading back in!
Our visit to the MONA was a lot of things, but it was never boring. We spent 6.5 hours from the time we boarded the posh pit, to our return to the harbor – probably over 4 of which were spent in the museum proper.
Normally Mrs. Selfish and I get itchy in any museum after 2 hours, but our time at the MONA flew by. There were just too many things to see, too many things to do, too many things to laugh at, mock, or contemplate. It’s without a doubt the coolest museum I’ve ever been to, and will likely ever go to.
If you’re going to Australia, go to Tasmania. And if you’re going to Tasmania, go to the MONA. You won’t regret it.