Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


MONA, Museum of Old & New Art – Hobart, Tasmania, Dec 2014

“Oooh, you must visit MONA – you’ll love it!”

‘Really? How do you know that?’ I thought to myself, fighting down a childish impulse to resolve not to go – or if I end up going (dragged, kicking and screaming – metaphorically, of course) to not like it, simply to prove them wrong.

Unsubstantiated claims get my back up.

But on this occasion, they turned out to be correct.

I started to think there might be something there worth seeing after reading this post from Jules, who was visiting with her family (also from Melbourne).

If, at the end of this, you think you might also want to visit, then my first tip is: if it’s peak season (i.e. school holidays) don’t queue up at Constitution Dock to catch the Mona Roma MR-1 (catamaran) 15min before it’s due to depart and hope to get onboard. You may be lucky, but you are more likely to be disappointed. Purchase your tickets in advance – at the ticket booth or online.

Lining up to buy Posh Pit tickets for the MONA ROMA MR-1 at the booth at Constitution Dock - Hobart, Tasmania

Lining up to buy tickets for the MONA ROMA MR-1 at the booth at Constitution Dock.

MONA Roma bus was available to take people who couldn't fit aboard the MR-1

MONA Roma bus was available to take people who couldn’t fit aboard the MR-1

Tip two: Buy tickets for the Posh Pit if you can!

No, they’re not cheap, but it was very nice. Also, Posh Pit ticket holders “enjoy a complimentary, half-hour private introduction to Moorilla with a tasting of [their] Pinot noir in our Barrel Room, 12.30pm Wednesday-Monday.” Unfortunately we were visiting on a Tuesday, otherwise we would have liked to have done this tasting. (If this is something that interests you, please confirm prior to booking that this offer is still available to avoid disappointment.) 

Serenaded with background music striking just the right tone and volume, a few glasses of bubbly and a shared plate of truly delicious morsels later, we arrived in just 30min at David Walsh’s dungeon known as the Museum of Old and New Art (or ‘MONA’ to everyone) to explore the diverse collection, and attempt to use the artwork as life-sized images from a 3D View-Master to peer into David’s mind.

Disembarking from the MR-1, passengers are confronted with the 99 steps leading up to the mirrored entrance. I would have liked to have taken a little more time to appreciate the atheistic of this section (and that was before I read about the amount of consideration that went into their design!), but it started to rain again so we hurried along with everyone else.

We already knew that the museum starts at the bottom, but the main entrance (and lockers for backpacks and umbrellas) are on the top (‘ground’) level with a shop and cafe that enjoys very good views across Berriedale Bay to Mt Wellington to the south, and along the Derwent River to the east.

Having presented our MONA tickets (purchased with our return ferry rides on the MR-1), we descended the spiral staircase in the middle of the building.

Descending into the depths of MONA around the glass elevator shaft

Descending into the depths of MONA around the glass elevator shaft

You probably know by now; I love rocks.

I’ve mentioned it before, usually as justification to post photos of forests full of huge granite boulders.

Well, have I also mentioned that it’s not just outdoor rock, but indoor stone that I love?

They didn’t intend the building to be an attraction, but Stephen and I agree it’s probably the ‘installation’ most worth viewing. Built on a tight budget, the architectural style is ‘industrial’. Some people may be turned off by the concrete floors and pillars, the exposed concrete waffle slab ceilings; but I liked seeing the bones of the building. And I’m not turned off by brutalist styles, which might help. If not thought through properly this style might look unfinished and poorly constructed… but here, they’ve made it work.

And there’s no way – no way – they could ever have allowed that huge and stunningly gorgeous Jurassic sandstone to be disguised. Perfectly illuminated, it brings warmth, life and colour to what might otherwise be perceived as a stark and artificial subterranean environment.

Having queued and received our iPods and instructions on using the The O app, which provides various explanations of the artworks, we gave the Void Bar a miss (having indulged on the ferry, more alcohol was hardly required at this point) and entered the first exhibition on the lowest level, ‘River of Fundament‘.

My very first impression was ‘how much time are we going to spend looking at The O instead of at the artwork? Fortunately, you can save and email your tour to yourself (and share it with others), so you don’t have to spend your whole day reading all about the pieces and the artist – that can wait until later. The perfect utilisation of modern technology.

But it does mean you see a lot of this:

The O works thanks to lots of Real Time Location Services (RTLS) devices on the ceilings. Which also means your smartphone works, even though you’re three storeys down and under a lot of concrete. Nice work guys!

In contrast to the hidden, mood lighting outside this gallery, the exposed rows of fluorescent tubes lighting the cavernous spaces in the ‘River of Fundament’ exhibition created a warehouse basement feeling to the space as we wandered between groups of people loosely clustered around each art object. I found myself reflecting on the right of individual collectors to own ancient relics. Sure, these objects are (currently) on public display, but was it right to take them from tombs (not everything is from someone’s tomb) in the first place?

Not everything in the collection was originally from ancient Egypt; some of the art has been created to tie in to that theme, but it usually wasn’t until I read the description of the art on The O that I understood how. (Read more about them here.)


On the whole I was happy to emerge from the gallery, especially since were back at the sandstone wall again. This small space is just exquisite with water seeping at the top of the wall making such vivid contrasting colours on the rock.

As we made our way up the levels there were a few artworks that I found interesting (no, I’m not going to describe the whole place!):

Untitled (White Library)
To me this is room of blank paper is about knowledge, learning, ideas, history and the future.

Like something out of the Matrix, there are short sequences of binary code on blackened walls, lit only by wells of super-bright LED’s from the edges of the floor. There is a secret message to find, and a surprise, too.


I like colours, and in a building with no windows any colour is good. At first the 46m long mural may look like it’s all the one picture repeated over and over, just coloured differently, but you should take a closer look.

Inconspicuous and unobtrusive were the staff watching over every piece of artwork.  There was plenty to see even with a couple of spaces closed pending new exhibitions. We didn’t even see everything; my head needed a break after 2 hours of plumbing the depths of MONA.

Outside, across the tennis court (because – why not?) and up the steps is Moorilla winery. On the lawn on the opposite side of the winery, preparations for New Year celebrations were being made with a stage and outdoor food and drink serving facilities being set up.

In addition to The Source restaurant, there is the Wine Bar where visitors can pick up a light (or filling), quick meal. We enjoyed a shared vegetarian antipasto platter with a glass of one of the ‘house’ whites each. (I apologise for the poor description – I didn’t order lunch or the wine and I don’t remember which label – probably Muse – or grape variety it was – possibly riesling.) It was a lovely, relaxed lunch – but it was very busy in the Wine Bar; we were lucky to spot a couple of stools to commandeer along the wall near where the chef was deftly putting lunch orders together.

The weather had improved for the ride back on the ferry so I stood out on the front deck and admired the scenery. Unfortunately missing out on the sweet treats served to Posh Pits guests. When I popped in to see if they’d been handed out, all I found was an empty plate! At least Stephen enjoyed them.

Departing from Constitution Dock at 9:30am and arriving back at 2:15pm (catching the 1:45pm ferry from MONA), we had plenty of time to look at everything we wanted and enjoyed an unhurried lunch. Taking the first ferry for the day also meant we had time to do other things in town when we got back.

I am very pleased we made time to go and see MONA.

: )