MONAportraits from MONA

“What’s this place?”

Riley asked me this question as we arrived and it was hard to give a short answer. I mean, sure, I replied, “It’s an art museum”, but in hindsight that feels reductive and even a little… wrong? Yes, there’s art everywhere. Yes, it has all the things one expects of such places (audio commentaries, a gift shop). But a week after leaving I’m still… processing my thoughts. I then went on to tell Riley about its founder, David Walsh, a millionaire who made his fortune from professional gambling, business and art collecting. Now THAT is a biography my son paid attention to and was already impressed before we went inside. (Read this great New Yorker piece on David Walsh – fascinating.)

But let’s start at the beginning. The Museum of Modern and New Art (MONA) is still relatively new – opening in 2011, it has now become one of Tasmania’s biggest tourist attractions. The artworks on display are at turns compelling, confronting and provocative. This isn’t a place built for ease; as you descend to its sandstone depths, you’re making a commitment: you need to start at the bottom to make your way back up to the surface. Yes, there are the big, famous exhibits – the Cloaca Professional, aka the poo machine (see video) – but I liked the smaller pieces. By walking past a simple wooden chair, upon which sits a white bowl filled with water, two goldfish and a knife I wondered about the separate significance of each of those elements and what they mean as a whole.


In the spirit of honesty, I will say I didn’t spend as long a time there as I would’ve liked. It turns out that while the rest of the crew can spend an entire day inside The National Gallery in London, looking at Turner, Van Gogh and countless others, I think this was a more challenging experience, and fair enough. We did spend a lot of time in one area, drawing portraits using the ‘mirror method’ (see photo above/video) and the kids were very happy with their work (as was I!). It was nice to be able to leave with a physical souvenir of the place.

For more information, head to the MONA website.

karen andrews

Karen Andrews is the creator of this website, one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Her latest book is Trust the Process: 101 Tips on Writing and Creativity