18 July, 2021

Mona 101: From mind-blowing art to off-the-wall wining and dining

Never been? Haven’t visited for a while? It’s always changing so you’re missing out!

When is Hobart mentioned in the same breath as New York or London? When conversations turn to amazing art galleries, because since 2011 the Museum of Old and New Art, now just known as Mona, has put Tasmania’s capital city on the international cultural map.


Who, what, where, when?

The driving force behind summer’s Mona Foma and winter’s Dark Mofo arts festivals, this gallery is a showcase for local multi-millionaire David Walsh’s eclectic, sometimes confronting private art collection. The building itself is an architectural marvel that literally bites into the Berriedale peninsula’s sandstone. It’s always expanding: the Siloam extension opened in June 2019 to create yet more space and connect the main building with the Pharos wing, which opened in 2017. A hotel is also coming – though visitors can already stay on-site at the eight luxurious Mona Pavlions, each named after an Australian artist or architect.

Siloam tunnels

There are many reasons to linger at Mona. Apart from the eye-popping, possibly mind-altering art around every corner, there’s live music, especially on weekends, and some of the state’s best wining and dining. So it’s probably not so much a question of whether you should visit, but more about how long you’ve got and how you will get there. Parking is limited so consider heading to Hobart’s Brooke Street Pier where you can catch Mona’s bus or, even better, one of Mona’s fast-ferries, which reveals the building at its most impressive, from the River Derwent, in the way David intended visitors to arrive.

MR-1  on River Derwent
MR-1 on River Derwent

A taste of the art

Get ready for culture shock, because Mona is probably going to take you outside your comfort zone a little, if not a lot. For starters there are no labels, but background about the artworks can be found on the O. Available as an iPhone app and on a device you can borrow free of charge, it provides text and audio insights, including interviews with the artists.

From Cloaca Professional, the machine that (in)famously replicates digestion – including pooping! – to bit.fall, a curtain waterfall that spells out lone, thought-provoking words, there are numerous works on permanent display inside Mona. Outside too, where you’ll find monumental sculptures including trucks made of ornate metal lacework, and Amarna, a light-based installation that fires up at sunrise and sunset.

There’s always something new to see though: in addition to regular temporary exhibitions, what’s on show from the permanent collection frequently changes. If you’ve not visited Mona lately, there’s literally quite a few new additions in the Pharos and Siloam spaces, including Unseen Seen, Weight of Darkness and The Divine Comedy. These mind-blowing installations are designed for small groups or even just two of you, so require additional tickets.

Mona’s labyrinth also includes a library with 14,000 of David Walsh’s books that anyone can look at, and a cinema showing films about art – and almost anything else. Because in this place you should definitely expect the unexpected…..cinerarium anyone?

Unseen Seen - James Turrell

The art of taste

Mona is home to one of Tasmania’s best fine-dining restaurants, The Source, and the small-plates focussed Faro restaurant-bar in the new Pharos wing which also houses permanent artworks by artist James Turrell. There’s also The Moorilla Wine Bar serving share plates, cheeses and other vino-friendly fare, and Void Bar, where craft cocktails are shaken and stirred.

Unusually for an art gallery, there’s a cellar door too – because the Mona property’s also home to Moorilla winery and, until recently, Moo Brew brewery, now off-site. Guided tours of both are available if you want to see how the magic happens.

All images supplied by Mona. 

Caterpillar Plates - Faro


Information included in this blog is correct at the time of publishing. Please contact individual operators for further information.

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