Have just had an amazing couple of days in Hobart; one to visit the Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) – a kind of hugely impressive vanity project by the professional gambler and art collector David Walsh – and the other to climb up (well actually down) Mount Wellington.
MONA is all the critics say. You reach it best by boat up the river Derwent to Berridale (the Mona Roma, done up in dazzle camouflage, and with plastic sheep to sit on) then up a long flight of steps to what appears as a small single storey pavilion – a converted existing house on the site – with a tennis court literally in front of the entrance, plus cafes, pavilions, a stage and rolling lawns between.
Then through a mirrored front door and back down and down via a spiral stair cut directly through the sandstone into what feels like a huge subterranean gallery, dark and windowless. A second Piranesi-like staircase made of corten at the other end meanders back up through the levels, in and against a deep cut of exposed and often wet sandstone, that slices a linear void through length of the space. The project, by architects Fender Katsalidis, is quite stunning and unlike most of what we know of galleries; or at least conventional airy white box versions. Of course, the space signals what the collector/collection is about – an odd mixture of incredible sophistication and naughty boy. Which I enjoyed enormously, even the obvious bits, because it still manages to feel refreshing.