Monday, March 5, 2012

The pilgrimage to MONA - 5 March

I think if you are reading an Australian art blog then MONA will need no introduction. Gambling millionaire David Walsh's 'secular temple' demands a big journey from the art faithful living on the mainland so the whole team at Big Lamington made the pilgrimage to Tasmania to pay our respects.

Highlights were everywhere, the following is a haphazard selection of mine. If I was a little more diligent with my "O" device I think I could have saved myself some typing and just posted the link to what I saw ...
First up was the Fat Car by Erwin Wurm. My son loved it and we very nearly had our first touching infringement of the day! Next was Daniel Cunningham's funeral song jukebox. It is an interesting work where he got a ton of art world types to list the song they wanted at their funeral. I thought a few participants were taking the piss a little bit (because if Iain Dawson really wants Tina Arena played at his funeral then I need to have a word) but mostly I really appreciated a good listing of contemporary Australian artists. We also got to see Nell's 'Let there be Robe' room (which they started taking down in the afternoon, a little early in my mind). I quite liked Damien Hirst's spin painting, and especially Walsh's thoughts on it courtesy of the gonzo section on the O device. The junior critics appreciated the word waterfall (aka bitfall) a little more than I did, I grant that it is a good spectacle. Then it was feeding time, not for us but for the cloaca's! The kids loved watching the Cloaca Professional eat his lunch and sure enough like clockwork we were back at the appointed time to see it do the business. In fact we enjoyed the first one so much we raced down to see another of the machines do its business as well. While down in the Delvoye area we were also impressed by some of his other work, primarily the delft shovels and his anal kisses (pictured above) which I thought were hilarious.

On the whole I absolutely loved it. Amazing venue, great building, interesting art and an inspiring backstory. This is the 'golden rule' put into practice (the golden rule is one of my favourite sayings: he who has the gold makes the rules). David Walsh himself has called it an adult disneyland and there are subtle and not so subtle references to the house of mouse everywhere. The branding is slick and omnipresent, the merchandise tie-in is pretty good (Moo Brew beers and Moorilla wines etc), you can stay on site in their own cabins and they even have their own transport (in MONA's case catamaran ferries as opposed to Monorails but it is a long trip from Hobart's CBD although I note their mayor would like our old one)). An interstate visitor won't get much change out of $100 once you factor in lunch and a trip to the shop. But I don't begrudge any of this. David needs this little business to pay for itself so he can keep buying stuff to fill it and I was happy to make my contribution. I only had two minor complaints. First was that it could've been a bit more kid friendly (and I don't mean changing any of the exhibits, just some kid friendly meals in the cafe and maybe an art playroom). There are plenty of art lovers of breeding age out there and the art itself is fine for infant consumption in my humble opinion (and there are even journo's on my side). Second was the postcard selection. MONA's enlightened photo policy receives good press but when you say in your visitor guide "Still photography is allowed. No flashes or tripods please. No videos or photographs may be reproduced, distributed, sold or displayed on personal websites without our permission. Buy a postcard." then you'd better have a pretty darn good postcard selection. Now I more than most like to buy postcards of the art I liked from museum visits and the selection here was pretty thin. They even had some postcards from a Wim show in Beijing of art I didn't even see at MONA. Anyhoo, as I said, very minor complaints really. On to the points ...

Points - 3 to David Walsh. The whole experience is very impressive, definitely adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I will be back. 2 to Wim Delvoye, the star of the current show. My kids loved the cloacas and I really liked the shovels and funnily enough bought quite a few of the kiss postcards to send to mates! 1 point to Fiona Hall for the banknotes with leaves (aka 'Further Shore'). Not very sex and death at all but quite a nice piece and one I would happily have on my wall.

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