Tassie: State of the Art

Travelling Well | Krysia Bonkowski | Posted on 10 December 2018

Meet one of the minds behind Hobart’s Mona, and discover why culture vultures are heading south.

Facade of Mona by the water

MONA at sunrise. Photo: MONA Jesse Hunniford


Mona magic

Hobart’s cultural landscape has become inexorably linked to Mona, the audacious Museum of Old and New Art aunched by art collector David Walsh in 2011. Occupying a narrow peninsula jutting into the Derwent River, Mona’s bulk is hidden, iceberg-like, in a subterranean labyrinth where bleeding-edge modern art sits beside priceless antiquities. While Mona makes fine art accessible for all, it is certainly not intended for all to like – just watch people’s faces as they puzzle out the anatomical plaster casts lining one particular wall (if you’ve been, you know the one we mean). But its ambition can’t be understated.

There are a few key things curator Jarrod Rawlins hopes visitors bring away from Mona’s strange little universe. “A sense of confusion would be good; that they had a great time, but that they’re still not exactly sure what was going on for the most part,” he says, adding that the sounds of the place might also intrigue. “Mona is filled with a great cacophony of sounds – take a listen.”

The “generosity” of this great undertaking is something Jarrod hopes might inspire other brave souls. “Maybe other people could achieve this if they wanted to,” he says. “I also hope that they stay, or become, optimistic about the good, weird things that happen in the world, like this.”

Close up of roof view of Mona

The Museum of Old and New Art. Photo: MONA Rémi Chauvin.


Circular sculpture on show at Mona

Unseen Seen by James Turrell. Photo: MONA Jesse Hunniford 


Facade of Mona from an angle

The Museum of Old and New Art. Photo: MONA Leigh Carmichael


Mona’s good weirdness has certainly helped catapult Hobart into the cultural spotlight worldwide. But long before Mona, the southern capital, and Tasmania itself, boasted a mighty arts scene relative to its size. “I think the impact [of Mona] is expressed best by looking at the amount of cultural activity that is happening in the state at any given time, and the quality and breadth of that cultural activity,” says Jarrod. “Hobart is a great microcosm of Australian creativity, from visual and performing arts, music, design, craft, food – all the things.”

One of Jarrod’s other top picks is the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery (TMAG): “You will understand the island better if you spend a day taking this place in,” he says. “And all of the smaller arts organisations in Hobart are amazing.”

Other must sees on your Hobart cultural sojourn:

Facade of the Salamanca Arts Centre

Salamanca Arts Centre. 


Salamanca Arts Centre (SAC)

SAC inhabits seven grand sandstone warehouses in Hobart’s iconic Salamanca Place. Established on behalf of the people of Tasmania in 1976, SAC remains at the heart of Hobart’s arts scene, housing a co-operative of atmospheric galleries, spaces and design boutiques. Don’t miss Rektango, a night of free live music and uninhibited dancing that has transformed SAC’s historic courtyard every Friday for the past 15 years.

The Plimsoll Gallery

Found within the University of Tasmania, this not-for-profit waterfront gallery gives wall space to the next generation of talent, as well as showing enthralling exhibitions by local and international contemporary artists and designers. From December 15 to January 27, Plimsoll hosts Seeing Voices, a multidisciplinary exhibit featuring pieces from the Monash University Museum of Art.

A display at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. 


Mona interior view

MONA. Photo: Jesse Hunniford.


Walkway overlooking people on path below level

Walkway overlooking The Void. Photo: MONA Leigh Carmichael.


Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG)

Australia’s second-oldest museum delves into Tasmania’s history and culture. The museum/gallery/herbarium houses the State Collection of Tasmania, and takes a thoroughly absorbing approach to education. From December 2018 to May 2019, , TMAG jumps back in time for the interactive Dinosaur rEvolution: Secrets of SurvivalAlso showing is The Mission, charting the journey of a Stolen Generation Aboriginal woman snatched from her family.

Contemporary Art Tasmania (CAT)

A powerful advocate for contemporary Tasmanian art, CAT champions innovative exhibitions and supports artists through a busy roster of industry events and energetic public programs. Visit the gallery in North Hobart for a glimpse into the future of the art world.

Additional photos: Tourism Tasmania

View from top of Corten staircase at Mona

MONA Corten staircase.  Photo: MONA Rémi Chauvin