The collected work at MONA focuses on the visceral, the ritualistic and the mythological (with some post-modern ‘Disneyland’ thrown in); picking up a rich thread in modern and contemporary art and tying it back to ancient Egyptian artifacts and the like. We are meant to be shocked – by the building’s unexpectedness, by the lack of labels on the work, by the refusal of ‘artwank’ and by the work itself.
It is, of course, an artificial controversy (one that Walsh himself only seems often bored by). We have already had, after all ‘ the shock of the new’ of modern art, and it is nearly 20 years since Saatchi’s Sensation show spotlighting the supposedly notorious Young British Artists (the YBAs) and their enthusiasm for the distasteful and bloody.
Walsh’s collection, though, brings that attitude decidedly into the 21st century and into the act of collecting and displaying work itself. The current guest exhibition is Matthew Burney’s Riverof Fundament, which seems a perfect fit. Other large permanent pieces such as Anselm Kiefer’s Sherivath ha Kelim, give some organizational structure to the space. This has it’s own pavilion (entered via a long dark and musical concrete pipe, which suddenly spits you out into really unexpected daylight). It is also a ‘classic’ marker of the kind of work on show. For, despite all the hype, the work on show is both an incredibly coherent selection - whether you like it or not- of where much contemporary art has been going.