Classical Hobart

Lady Franklin Museum "Ancanthe"
Lady Franklin Museum “Ancanthe” Park, Lenah Valley, Tasmania.

Following hot on the heels from last week’s entry about MONA. David Walsh is not the first person to try to bring a bit of culture to the denizens of Hobart. Way back in 1842 Lady Jane Franklin wife of the governor Sir John Franklin felt that there was a “lack of cultural institutions” in Tasmania. She sought to remedy this with the help of the convict architect, James Blackburn, by building a classical edifice on the slopes of Mount Wellington set in 400 acres parkland. This building was to be the centrepiece of a botanical garden and hopefully instil some cultural aspiration into the good people of Hobart. Fat chance! The Franklins left Hobart in 1843 and the building and land were transferred to the Anglican Church, notably Christ College. After nearly 100 years of neglect by the church the building became an apple shed. Apples are very important to Tasmanians. The nice thick stone walls probably made it a very good store. In 1949 it was acquired, along with 5 acres of land by the Hobart City Council   and then leased to the Art Society of Tasmania who are now using it as it was originally intended.

Lady Franklin Museum "Ancanthe"
Lady Franklin Museum illuminated by the first rays of the sun at dawn.



Moaning About MONA


Bad Parking Or Work Of Art.Swiss artist Roman Signer slammed a car into converging concrete walls in the MONA Car Park.


Hello everyone, I’ve just got back from a very enjoyable trip to “The Apple Isle” or Tasmania as it is properly known. The trip wasn’t all beer and skittles as we had some business to attend to in Hobart, but while we were there we did manage to slip in some fine eating and a visit to MONA.


Gothic Truck. Wim Delvoye creates oversized laser-cut steel sculptures of objects typically found in construction in seventeenth-century Flemish Baroque style. MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.


The Museum of Old and New Art, to give it its full name is the largest privately funded museum in Australia and houses David Walsh’s art collection. Like MONA, Walsh is a polarizing figure – you either like him or you don’t there is no middle ground. Even his bio on the MONA website describes as being “a prick because he like it”. According to The Age he is Hobart’s most infamous son making his fortune off of gambling systems and card counting in casinos, and then apart from the paltry $32 million AUD owed to the Australia Tax Office used it to build the museum ($75 million) and buy his art collection ($100 million). To get an idea of what he is about Walsh recently MC’d his own wedding and out dressed the bride and his parking space at MONA is labelled “God’s”. The words vanity and control certainly spring to mind.


Heading towards the entrance of MONA. Hobart, Tasmania.


MONA is much hyped in Tasmania and indeed Australia, in fact so much so you’d be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing else. When you arrive there you realise that it is much, much more than just an art museum. It is a vineyard, a micro brewery (I’m very partial to the Moo Brew Pils so I’m not all anti Walsh), an upmarket resort, restaurant, event space and gallery. As you go through the mirrored entrance and descend into its deep dark depths it feels like you are entering a Bond villain’s secret lair. When I got to the bottom I fully expected to be met by a pudgy bald man in a grey Mao suit sitting in a swivel chair and fondling a siamese cat. It was a bit of an anti-climax not to be. There are some nice pieces of art in Walsh’s collection, I’m particularly drawn to the works by Australian artist Tracy Moffatt and South African Roger Ballen, but (and there always is a BUT) the overall the impression given is that a huge wedge of cash was given to an adolescent with which to indulge his puerile imagination. The central theme is that of sex and death and the collection relies heavily on shock value rather than other form of merit. Walsh obviously sees himself as a provocateur and impresario in the mould of Malcolm McLaren, but all that was done over thirty years ago and so Walsh’s attempt seems like a limp lettuce sitting in a supermarket cool shelf after a long hot day – in other words past its expiry date.


Interacting with the exhibits. MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.


Perhaps I’m being a little disingenuous and a tad cynical, but I came away thinking that perhaps the real art at MONA is the marketing and relieving the punters of their cash, which would make all rather ingenious. Maybe Walsh is a Bond villain after all. For me the most enjoyable part of the whole MONA experience was watching how the visitors interacted with the exhibits.


Sand Buddha.


Hold That Pose. Wim Delvoye’s gothic chapel, MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.


Looking Up. Interacting with the exhibits. Wim Delvoye’s gothic chapel, MONA, Hobart, Tasmania.