Tasmania’s Museum of Sex & Death
Monday, October 8th, 2012
By Lauren Smith
Photos by Leigh Carmichael, courtesy MoNA Museum of old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; mona.net.au
After making it big as a professional gambler, eccentric Australia native David Walsh decided to give back to his hometown of Hobart, Tasmania in an unusual way.
Walsh founded the Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA. With nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibition space on its three levels, the building and collection are valued at $175 million—making it the largest private museum in Australia. And the largely subterranean MONA was designed to confound expectations—especially in its purposely difficult-to-navigate labyrinthine floor plan.
The evolving permanent collection mixes conventional museum offerings, such as modernist paintings and Egyptian artifacts, with controversial conceptual art, such as Chris Olfin’s The Holy Virgin Mary, which features elephant dung and naked bottoms. Elsewhere, museum-goers will find a world of wonders in the “Sex and Death Gallery,” complete with masochistic sculptures of hanging body parts, an oozing, inflated red sports car, a machine replicating bodily func- tions, and large grid installations of genitals.
MONA’s button-pushing offerings have made it an unlikely tourist destination and major boon to the Tasmanian economy. It’s such a hit that Walsh has even created a special option for the museum’s super- fans: the Eternity package. After death, MONA members can be cremated and their ashes will become a part of the permanent collection.