When you think of major art destinations around the world, sleepy little Hobart would probably be considered an unlikely place. But it’s true. Since 2011 Hobart has been home to the Museum of New and Old Art, or MONA for short. As its name says it houses art and objects from the ancient to the cutting edge and it has definitely place Hobart on the map.
Having been to some of Europe and Australia’s finest galleries, MONA was definitely on our list for this trip.
First we had to partake in some transitory art: Breakfast. B insisted on going to Jackson and Macross, a patisserie and bakery but a short walk from our hotel. Compared with the mainland the prices are very reasonable and the food is wow! My raspberry brioche is good, but Alex’s chocolate croissant is so crisp and buttery, as perfect a croissant as you could want. B’s salmon and egg tart is simply brilliant.
We walk down the sandstone steps to the harbour, where we buy tickets for the ferry to MONA. There’s a bit of time until the next run, so we walk into the sleepy Sunday centre of Hobart, doors just opening at 10 am. Then we return to the pier to catch the camouflage patterned catamaran MR-1.
The top rear deck has stools and sheep for seats, along with a white cow. Inside is a bar and cafe with a caged parrot with a warning that he bites.
As we motor out into the Derwent River dolphins are leaping out of the water, small black shapes popping up and disappearing.
We go past The Investigator and under the big Tasman Bridge. It’s cold out the back and spitting rain but you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on board.
On one side is a fuel import terminal, on the other are cliff walls of shattered stone and small caves. We pass the Nyrstar zinc refinery. It looks old, dirty and clouds of steam are streaming up to the sky. But it’s also beautiful in an industrial kind of way.
The hangers of Incat signify a more modern industry, building the very catamaran we are sitting in and many others in use across the world.
From the outside MONA has a very low key presence, some rusted metal panels reminiscent of Australia’s (and Luxembourg’s) pavilions at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, though less impressive. Most of the gallery lies below the ground, accessible via a spiral staircase or the glass lift that Alex insisted we take down three levels below.
It almost feels like some sort of surreal post-apocalyptic science fictional environment down at the bottom. Set in a trench of sandstone that looks like it was part of an old industrial workplace you are greeted by a bar and French style armchairs along with a waterfall of messages. Then you enter the gallery proper, equipped with special iPhones called the “O” that give more information on each exhibit based upon your location.
The museum is currently featuring an exhibition of Marina Abramovic’s works. Most of our previous experiences of performance based art have involved befuddlement and boredom at interpretative dancing and shrieking, but the displays were immediately confronting and involving, evoking a very visceral response.
Videos of her pulling on a bow as a man aims an arrow at her heart, of people screaming, even brushing her hair with emotional vigour were all affecting. I wonder if Tony Abbott was inspired by her devouring a raw onion.
There are crystal beds, rubbings off stones from Hiroshima, a stop motion brain and an artifical digestion system that eats and shits. There is so much more, too much to detail. Some content is “adult” in nature, but even Alex enjoyed a surprising number of things.
After four hours it is time to leave. The skies are clearing as we catch the ferry back. We’ve gone without lunch and Alex insists on another visit to Mures. Despite only ordering two meals, one of which was a kid’s, we are absolutely full again as we walk back to the hotel room in the chilly air.
None of us have the energy to reemerge. We had planned to visit the Drunken Admiral, another favourite haunt, for dinner, but were just too full. Not so full that we couldn’t resist stopping by Jackson and Macross again to take away some more pastries.
I went to bed early, feeling sad that this short trip was about to end.