MONA – The Museum of Old and New Art

MONA – The Museum That Has The Art World Talking Photography courtesy of MONA 11111842386_49487a0c46MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, is an art space quite unlike any other. For art critics, visitors, educators, civic leaders, spokespersons of all persuasions, MONA is a source of constant and often heated debate. Opened in January 2011, MONA is Australia’s largest private museum and houses a diverse private collection that ranges from ancient Egyptian mummies to some of the world’s most infamous and thought-provoking contemporary art.  The museum has achieved international recognition for the quality and diversity of works on display, many of which are designed to be confronting and controversial; qualities that ensure the museum is never far away from the lips of those who have visited. MONA occupies a spectacular 3.5 hectare site beside the River Derwent in Hobart, Australia’s southernmost state. The museum represents the vision of its founder, David Walsh, a Tasmanian by birth, a gambler by profession and a subversive by inclination. A gifted mathematician, David Walsh applied his natural ability very successfully to gambling but found that money alone did not provide the personal satisfaction he was seeking. As one who also had a strong interest in art collecting and a radical perspective on what art could and should represent, Walsh decided to create MONA, quite unaware of the success that would follow. Walsh was disenchanted with the way many conventional museums presented their collections and sought to make his own statement, challenging many traditional beliefs. MONA certainly does achieve this goal. 6114615415_55decc9790_q Since opening, MONA has attracted over than 700,000 visitors, considerably more than the entire population of Tasmania. Visitors first came from Tasmania but shortly followed from mainland Australia and then the world. MONA is now considered the leading tourist attraction in Tasmania and is a major economic force for the local economy. In 2013, Lonely Planet described Hobart as one of the world’s top ten cities and attributes this rating primarily to the drawcard impact of MONA. International accolades for the museum have come from some distinguished sources. The curator of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas deems MONA to be ‘one of the most fascinating and satisfying experiences I have ever had in a museum’ and others have described the museum as ‘ . . . . . a watershed in the way that art is understood by the general public.’ Given the radical nature of many of the contemporary works on display, some critics have been grossly offended even outraged and those visiting the museum should be prepared for an experience quite unlike any other. 11111979925_72919d2619 MONA confronts the senses through art that invades the normally private domains of human behaviour. It challenges the conventions of what constitutes art. It boldly attacks beliefs and uses art as a shock tactic that asks visitors to re-examine the private-public divide and the boundaries of taste and morality. Changing perceptions about the world in which we live is at the centre of the MONA philosophy. 11111913323_c085d5fa7a A feature of MONA is the architecture that houses the exhibitions and provides accommodation for visitors. The architecture is as radical and cutting-edge as the exhibits themselves; sculpted steel, glass and concrete set into the hillside overlooking the Derwent River. The building was recently awarded the top Australian architectural prize, the Sir Zelman Cowan Award.   Imagination and free thinking are hallmarks of the design where little is predictable but where surprises are many. The exterior is concrete and Corten steel panels with roof gardens, a tennis court and walkways. The building is “deliberately underwhelming,” says David Walsh. A spiral staircase (or the lift) takes you beneath the Courtyard House entrance and through the rock face. Three subterranean levels have been cut into the Triassic sandstone of the river bank. The interior is designed to encourage visitors to lose themselves in the slow reveal of the galleries. The concrete waffle design used externally is repeated in many of the gallery ceiling spaces to highlight the scale and varying structural 6805403699_68289b79b6levels. “We are forcing that scale down your throat,” says Walsh. To enable the roof to be landscaped as a public area, all operating facilities are incorporated within the building.6123148051_16359393e1_z The building was designed around specific art pieces and is one of the few museums in the world to have a water covered gallery floor, a waterfall installation, a crimson velvet-lined gallery with gilded walls, two bars, and facilities to handle effluent from an art piece. Large vaulted display areas, use of subdued lighting to enhance a subtle ambience and exposed deep sandstone excavations are just some of the features to be admired. From an architectural viewpoint alone, MONA is well worth a visit. 6123780433_170de9e311 For the complete MONA experience, on-site pavilions in different configurations offer many creative possibilities in keeping with themes of the museum. MONA has eight accommodation pavilions featuring ancient and contemporary art (and bits in between), all furnished by leading local and international designers.  Each pavilion has its own distinct character and is named after an artist or architect that impacted MONA.  Choose from one to two bedrooms.  Visitors can wander through the museum, eat at The Source Restaurant, the Wine Bar or the Mona cafe; have a Moorilla wine tasting and vineyard tour with an expert; or join an off-site Moo Brew micro-brewery tour.  Room rates from $600 per night. The museum is accessible by car; a fifteen minute drive north of Hobart or by a fast (30 minutes) catamaran journey from the Brooke Street Pier, Hobart. Bookings: +61 3 6277 9900; Web:’s-on/exhibitions/ Entry Fee: Tasmanians & under eighteens free, Adults $20, Concession $15 Pictures: 1. MONA Exterior On The Derwent River  2.  The Entrance to MONA  3.  The Void   4.  The Bar  5.  The Plaza, Roof Top Garden 6.  Pavilions (accommodation)  7.  Interior of The Walter Pavilion.  8.  Interior of The Robin Pavilion.  INFORMATION ON THE NEW EXHIBITIONexhib_branding_header MATTHEW BARNEY: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT NOVEMBER 22 TO APRIL 13, 2015 November 21, at 5pm, the film RIVER OF FUNDAMENT– Federation Concert Hall, Hobart. November 22, at 1pm, A Conversation: Matthew Barney and David Walsh, Hobart’s Odeon Theatre. November 22, 8pm, the exhibition Matthew Barney: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT at MONA. November 23 the exhibition opens during regular museum hoursexhibition2 Matthew Barney: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT combines elements of narrative sculpture, traditional cinema, live performance, storyboards and drawings to create an immersive experience. This exhibition follows an evolution of RIVER OF FUNDAMENT from its inception in 2007 through its unique presentation at MONA.  Following the project’s inauguration at the Haus der Kunst, Munich earlier this year, the exhibition at MONA is Matthew Barney’s Australian debut in a singular national venue. Many of the works in the exhibition took shape as a symphonic opera and are the brutally elegant distillation of an intuitive, multi-disciplinary, creative process that mark Barney’s singular artistic approach.  RIVER OF FUNDAMENT takes two forms:  Barney’s creation of the ritual through sculptures, drawings and storyboards, and the ritual made real in the form of an epic film of the same name, by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, the artist’s musical collaborator since 1996. For the exhibition, MONA’s curators worked closely with the artist to select sculptures, drawings, and Egyptian antiquities from David Walsh’s collection. Barney has selected some works to be incorporated into his own installations and storyboard. Inspiration for RIVER OF FUNDAMENT was Norman Mailer’s novel, Ancient Evenings (1983), which tells in explicit detail the story of an Egyptian mythic journey from death to rebirth. The novel draws from the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” and is a sexually graphic, ferocious telling of the recurring rebirth of Menenhetet One. The novel took Mailer 10 years to write; it was panned by most critics of the day as unreadable.   New York Times writer Benjamin De Mott described it as “ludicrous blends of Mel Brooks and the Marquis de Sade,” however critic Harold Bloom, reviewing the novel for the New York Review of Books, wrotethat he saw the central character as a metaphor for Mailer’s personal obsessions and his dying hope for literary resurrection through the novel.  This is the view that Barney highlights in his film – a reinterpretation of Mailer’s mythologies that, while described within the context of ancient Egypt, is strongly rooted in the heart of a modern American pathos.exhibition In 2007, not long before his death, Mailer asked Barney to read the novel’s first 100 pages and the project RIVER OF FUNDAMENT became the culmination of their two desires: Mailer’s to redeem the novel he loved, and Barney’s to portray in sculpture and ritual pageantry the post-industrial myths and mayhem of their country. At MONA, Matthew Barney: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT is curated by the artist with David Walsh, Nicole Durling and Olivier Varenne. This exhibition premiered at Haus der Kunst, Munich, exhibition3and was curated by Okwui Enwezor in collaboration with MONA. MONA Curator Olivier Varenne “Matthew Barney’s sculptures are created from chance and ritual action.  They are the result of an experiment to make works that are neither props nor ancillary to his epic film River of Fundament.  They stand as narrative sculptures.  MONA is proud that Matthew accepted our invitation to have his first solo Australian exhibition with us.” MONA Curator Nicole Durling “On reflection having Matthew Barney’s work at MONA was meant to be. Well before the museum was built the ritual narratives in his work resonated with us. “River of Fundament folds together personal, historic and cultural myths in an epic tale, so the inclusion of select pieces from David’s Egyptian antiquities adds yet another layer – ancient and contemporary  – in our tomb-like galleries.” The artist: Matthew Barney (born San Francisco 1967) is known internationally for such works as his visionary five component films forming the CREMASTER cycle (1994 – 2002) and his DRAWING RESTRAINT series (1987 – ongoing), currently consisting of 21 filmed actions, the most recent of which took place at Haus der Kunst in early 2014. He describes his films as “hybrid”: neither documentary nor straightforward cinema but something in between.  The current project fully encompasses all aspects of his artistic practice: physical action, stamina, role playing and complex narratives exploring extended meditations on his personal development, American culture, history, politics and mythology.  Barney has received numerous awards including the Aperto prize at the 1993 Venice Biennale; the Hugo Boss Award in 1996; the 2007 Kaiser Ring Award in Goslar, Germany and the San Francisco International Film Festival’s Persistence of Vision Award in 2011.  He lives and works in New York. The composer: Jonathan Bepler (born Philadelphia 1959) was self-taught on many instruments by the time he attended Bennington College in 1982. His major areas of study were composition with Louis Calabro, improvisation with Bill Dixon, percussion with Milford Graves, and performance with artists and choreographers including Lisa Nelson and Min Tanaka. His interest in collaboration and interdisciplinary work continued in New York City, where his work often involved co-mingling many seemingly disparate elements, a love of chaos, and a thirst for reconciliation. Bepler has worked with many choreographers, including John Jasperse, Sasha Waltz, Jennifer Lacey, and Wally Cardona, and has also led ensembles of both improvised and pre-composed music, appearing often in New York and Europe. His concert music includes commissions for the Ensemble Modern, the Glenn Branca Ensemble, and the Basel Synfonietta. His collaboration with artist Ann-Sofi Siden, featuring actors, technicians, and architecture of the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden, was shown in Stockholm and Berlin. His work with Matthew Barney has spanned nearly 20 years and has included seven films and nine performances. He lives and works in Berlin. Matthew Barney: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT is supported by the Laurenz Foundation, Schaulager, Basel; Gladstone Gallery, New York; Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Sadie Coles HQ, London.  The film RIVER OF FUNDAMENT is produced by Matthew Barney and Laurenz Foundation, written and directed by Matthew Barney, music composed by Jonathan Bepler. The catalogue: Matthew Barney has created a 311-page artist’s book.  It includes essays by Okwui Enwezor, Hilton Als, Diedrich Diederichsen, Homi K. Bhabha, and David Walsh, along with librettos from each of the three live performances; extracts from Jonathan Bepler’s musical scores; Barney’s drawings and storyboards, installation images of each of the related sculptures; a selection of photographic references, and an expansive edit of production stills from the film. Matthew Barney: RIVER OF FUNDAMENT is published in conjunction with the exhibition Matthew Barney: River of Fundament, held at Haus der Kunst, Munich, March 16– August 17, 2014; and at Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania, Australia, November 22, 2014–April 27, 2015. First published in the United States of America in 2014 by Skira Rizzoli Publications, Inc.
New York, NY. In association with Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany The November launch of the film RIVER OF FUNDAMENT is a co-presentation with Sydney Festival 2015. For further information:  Delia Nicholls, research curator and media manager M: 0438 308 161 E: