Stuff we are planning to do

David Walsh | Posted on December 13, 2015

There is an old Soviet joke that insists that ‘the future is certain. It is the past that is unpredictable’. Despite my endless rambling about the pointlessness of prediction, I thought I'd highlight a bunch of projects that Mona has on the go, for the self-serving reason that I want to establish our tourism credentials in the light of Federal Hotel's tactic of promising expenditure conditionally on their pokies licence being extended.

Mona is here for good (in at least one sense). None of these projects are contingent on the casino going ahead (including the casino), but Monaco might make it a little easier to pay for all this. However, they are contingent on many other things, like planning and building approval. And me not shuffling off this mortal coil. (I heard that Rene Hidding, when told that I was planning for the consequences of ‘being hit by a bus’, said: ‘That won't happen. I've had a word with our bus drivers and they are going to be very careful’.

As an aside, when I first opened Mona, I expected to see some services (coffee shops, restaurants etc.) cropping up in the area. I don't know why that hasn't happened, except that there may be some zoning issues, but Local Pizza recently opened in Claremont, and it is exactly the sort of business I was hoping for. I hope it is the vanguard of more quality, consumer-oriented businesses to come. So, start selling stuff in the Glenorchy region. I'm buying.

For us, the first cab off the rank will be an extension to the gallery to house four James Turrell works. As James' works always are, these will be light works, but not lightweight works. Also in the extension will be a bar and restaurant, possibly serving tapas, which will double as another function venue. The whole thing cantilevers off the tunnel between the museum and the Round House. It would extend about 20 metres over the Derwent. Astute observers might notice from the plan that there is a dead-end tunnel going back towards the winery. That will eventually (five-seven years?) connect to a much larger extension, west of the winery, that will house some offices (our staff is growing, but not our facilities) and a museum gallery extension. This will be a large building, and I suspect it will cost about as much as the original museum. If it never gets built, the tunnel to nowhere might well cause some wild speculation on the part of future archeologists. Aliens will have been involved in some capacity, I'm sure.

An extension to the gallery to house four James Turrell works.

We are also pretty advanced in designing a hotel for Mona, HOtelMOna, or HOMO. In fact we have now mooted the plans for more than twenty hotels for the site, starting long before Mona opened, but we finally have something that we feel justified in building. I believe a hotel should make exactly the sort of statement that Mona avoided: it should shout where Mona whispered. The building will house a decent library (I think the Mona library isn't a design triumph, and we have a great deal of rare books and autograph manuscripts that we have never displayed [Stop Press: last night I bought an early edition of The Origin Of Species autographed by Darwin]), function centre, restaurant, bar, a theatre, some retail, and a spa, as well as around 160 rooms. Some of the rooms will be designed by artists: Marina Abramovic and James Turrell have agreed to participate, as well as our own Brigita Ozolins.

HOtelMOna, or HOMO.
HOtelMOna, or HOMO.

The casino is a different beast, or more precisely, a different flower. I've engaged a Mexican organic architect, Javier Senosiain, who seems to understand the sort of thing I want, despite neither of us understanding the other. Casinos are closed edifices of steel and gloss. That's not what I want. I want an open garden. Our customer base could never be that of the standard casino world, but it is a big world, and we need very few customers. And when we don't have customers, I'd like the casino to be worth a visit, just from an art and architecture point of view. Anyway, it might never be licenced, so it needs to function at a level beyond that of a cash palace. These early models don't quite intersect with the present hotel, because they were designed for a slightly earlier iteration. The principle will remain, however.


On top of the Turrell extension I am planning a playground from Toshiko MacAdam. Although this isn't very far along the design path, here I enclose the work that encouraged us to pursue this artist. We imagine something similar.

One of the best works of art I've ever seen is the Richard Wilson work 20:50. I liked it so much I wrote about it in my autobiography. And now it's mine (nearly, I paid a deposit). As yet, I don't know what I'm going to do with it, so it won't surface for a few years.

Conrad Shawcross featured when Mona opened, and he will feature again when the hotel opens. The centrepiece work for the entrance chamber to the hotel is a giant, asymmetrical rope-making machine. That means nothing to you, of course, but it will be amazing. Conrad has been working on it for quite some time, but he still has nearly a year to go.

The night I met Kirsha, my then wife-to-be, in Basel, Switzerland, I also first encountered the art of Jean Tinguely, and he affected me almost as profoundly. His best works are Heath Robinson-esque assemblages of arbitrariness that expend a great deal of effort to accomplish very little. I recently acquired one of these and it will appear in the gallery one day soon.

The phenomenal highlight of the first Dark Mofo, Spectra, those optical towers of alliance, might come to Mona permanently, but only for a few days a year (maybe for a night each on the solstices and the equinoxes). We are in negotiation with the artist, Ryoji Ikeda, and he seems pretty keen for his masterwork to have a permanent home.

My favourite work from our Matthew Barney show will become part of the Mona collection. I saw this piece in his New York studio a couple of years before the exhibition, and it reminded me he is the real deal.

The Swiss artist, Thomas Huber, came up with a great proposal for us, which consists of a couple of giant paintings and a few smaller drawings and watercolours. This should be completed in a couple of years, and I can hardly wait.

A few years ago I admired the diaries of the noted Australian artist, Donald Friend. His flagrant parading of his illicit sexual congress with young boys made me ponder, as I had before and have since, the morality of art based on, or in, the abrogation of ethics. Most of us are still prepared to visit Chartres Cathedral, built on the broken backs of generations of near slaves, or enjoy the benefits of medicine perfected through the torturing of animals. Does a stunningly illustrated story in a corrupt artist's original hand constitute good art? If not, would a printed copy be okay? Is my highlighting the moral ambiguity of collecting Donald Friend sufficient justification for that very collecting?

And while on the subject of moral ambiguity, is a Nazi war machine (this is an Enigma machine, used for encoding communications within the German military) an appropriate thing to collect? Is it more appropriate given the knowledge that the Polish/English decoding of messages sent between such machines may have contributed to the Allies’ victory?

Earlier I mentioned a plan for a playground. We are actually planning two sets of artistic play apparatus. The other will be by Tom Otterness, who did some wonderful stuff at Doha airport. Here's a preliminary sketch of one of the proposed works. He is infamously morally compromised. One of his earliest artworks was a video of him shooting a dog. He is still copping shit about it nearly forty years later, presumably from people who abet the murder of 1.2 billion pigs and 400 million cattle per annum.

When I was about ten we went on holiday to the caravan park next to Mona (now known as Treasure Island, perhaps soon to be known as Moab, unless a better acronym comes along). We went there to holiday even though we lived in Glenorchy, and even though it was about a forty-minute journey. And that's forty minutes on foot – our family didn't have a car so we walked to our holiday. We had lots of fun. I hope to preserve its affordability, while enhancing the sense of adventure for future intrepid travellers that visit Mona's near neighbour.

The planned Mona boardwalk is unique is three ways. It's the only item on this list that is approved; I don't want to pay for it since it is mainly a community service and I can't see an external funding source. So it is the only item on the list that I want financial help for; it is therefore the least likely to be built.

Connecting the boardwalk and the Round House library is this potential commission from perennial Mona favourite, Wim Delvoye. Towers seem to be the flavour of the century in Hobart, and with the proposed light tower for Hobart, I hesitated before publishing it. But we've been working on it for years, and it's kind of beautiful. Maybe Hobart, in the tradition of Tolkien, could use two towers?

The parlous state of the beautiful River Derwent due to heavy metal contamination is something I took for granted. My American wife, however, feels a need to do something about it, and together with many collaborators has instigated a number of art projects in an effort to generate awareness. One of the biggest is a thing we call the Heavy Metal Science Lab, designed by the local architectural firm, Room 11. A walking ring about 50 metres in diameter will (given approval is forthcoming) be constructed, supported by hydraulics, so it can be raised and lowered with the tide. The plan is to keep it just below the waterline, so that the procession around it requires gumboots, or bare feet, to provoke contemplation of the state of the water. A number of sampling experiments will also be conducted.

Once we have a hotel at Mona, we need an efficient way for people to get there, and back to Hobart. Running the giant ferry out of hours makes little sense, so I asked our expert ferry collaborators, Navigators, to consider Venice-style ferries. This is their collaborators’ design for a 25-person, million-dollar motoscafi.

Wim Delvoye
Wim Delvoye

We've also got lots of offsite projects: upmarket accommodation (on a very small scale) and facilities, including a cooking school at our farm near Marion Bay, a potential hotel collaboration in Hobart (about which I will say no more), the already announced research for Mac Point, and a recording school for disadvantaged rappers in New Orleans. But I'll stop now, because I'm going to have a look at the tables that Kirsha and her friends are making for an artist's dinner on Saturday. They will be full of alcoholic jelly, which will hopefully induce some generosity of spirit in those rich art wankers that we invited, on the off chance that they will contribute to as yet unpropounded projects in Mona's 'certain' future. But maybe peer pressure, or the jelly, will inveigle them to do something different, something wonderful, that no one now can foresee.

Off-site projects
Off-site projects

Header image: Mona Playground (Artist Rendering), Preliminary sketch, Tom Otterness


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Wayne Chisnall | January 8, 2016 at 02:22 pm

I was working on the deinstall of the V&A's Hollywood Costume show in Melbourne a couple of years ago when I first heard about MONA. Knowing that this would probably be my only trip to Australia I took a day off and flew straight to Hobart, just to visit the museum. It was everything that I could have wished for (and much more) - so worth the trip!
The work on display so fitted in with my own artwork that I felt like I'd come home - dark humour, the macabre, sex and death! I was also pleased to find that a London lass, Tessa Farmer, (who I was exhibiting sculptures alongside in London, at the time) had her amazing Fairies installations on show at MONA.
I tell everyone I know, who is visiting Australia, to check out MONA - my favourite museum on the planet!

bob blackmore | December 14, 2015 at 12:08 pm

David love your vision. Creativity is everything that makes us human!! If you see what were trying to do in Sydney. you may see some similarity in MONA but trying to recognize and assist all creativity in Arts and technology in one spot.

rich | December 15, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Fucking awesome mate! Thanks so much for the chrissie party too, it was glorious.

Roscoe | December 13, 2015 at 03:47 pm

This is all great, but how long until you put a Subway there? give the people what they want.

Chris McKenzie | December 14, 2015 at 01:58 pm


Nicole Duncan | December 13, 2015 at 02:22 pm


Val Monaghan | December 13, 2015 at 08:07 pm

No mention of your new daughter? Your blog is entertaining but I think the tower in Hobart will be regarded with jaundiced views . However it will be a talking point that will take the attention off the decisions of the HCC about things regarded as blunders ...and that fellow about the cable car. Boring !!! ________________________________

Lorraine clark | December 22, 2015 at 05:08 am

Well that all sounds exciting👍 Bring it on 😳

Floss | December 13, 2015 at 02:20 pm

Goodness .... Thank you!! It all looks fantastic and amazing and I can't wait for it all to come to fruition.

natasha grafanakis | January 17, 2016 at 10:04 pm

Wow! Just blown away by how amazing all the upcoming projects are (but not surprised!). I'm especially excited about the redevelopment of the caravan park, I also have fond memories of taking my nephew there to feed the ducks when he was a little boy. Just thought I'd share an idea for the name (if you aren't set on moab). When I think of caravans and the nomadic nature of the people I think of the gypsy travellers and love those old Romani style wagons or caravans called a Vardo. Mona Vardo? Acro MOVA just a thought I'm sure you have it covered😄 aplologies if two comments pop up, had a bit of trouble on my phone before

Jane | December 15, 2015 at 08:49 am

We look at the nazi war machine because we're fascinated by the damage than can be done by such a thing in the context of world history. I don't have a problem with beautiful bodies in art. However when it comes to children and sexual morality the context can only be betrayal.

Tet Lambert Carr | December 15, 2015 at 08:05 am

The Marion Bay complex is stunning, pity we have to have another 'tower' in Hobart, the Wrest point Tower is such a nasty penis on our sky-line.

lvpswsb | December 13, 2015 at 04:11 pm

Looks like you are better at poker face than feral Farrels love the inspiration MONA brings to the entire coMmunity. Also I love a good tongue in cheek acronym what does Moab stand for currently

Allegra Biggs Dale | January 26, 2016 at 07:21 pm

Last time I said thank you for bringing MONA to 'our community' I had a blasting from you, so I'll refrain just in case. Excited about anything you do, YES, ABSOLUTELY.

Craig Burnett | December 14, 2015 at 02:08 pm

Thank you for sharing your plans for the future , love your ideas , would be wonderful to see all of this happen.
As a close neighbor of the mona experience , i love all that has happened in the bay and look forward to sitting on my deck and watch all your ideas come together

Jayne Waterford | December 16, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Uninhibited, visionary planning.

Catherine Fitzpatrick | December 14, 2015 at 06:21 am

Great plans! Can't you just run the whole State. Think we would be in a much better position if you and your team did.

Ros Barnett | December 13, 2015 at 06:57 pm

Tinguely must have been exhibited in London back in the 80s because I have a memory of seeing wonderful mobiles of his and buying a poster that cheered up several nasty rented flats.

Lyn Smith | December 13, 2015 at 07:33 pm

Jean Tinguely influenced then worked with Niki de Saint Phalle in Europe. He described her as "the greatest sculptor & painter of all time". *
There are few of her pieces in museums. Would be marvellous to get a companion piece for the Tinguely by her.
*p.26 isbn 379132876X

Robyn McRae | December 13, 2015 at 07:21 pm

We visit MONA at least twice a year and we live in Victoria
Your newsletters are great for us as we know what's happening before we arrive

Brian | December 14, 2015 at 03:06 pm

What wonderful vision and ideas you have for the future. Tasmania stands to gain a lot if you proceed with this wonderful concept. Best wishes and I hope all of your dreams come true.

Mick McMillan | December 14, 2015 at 05:56 pm

Fleece those art wankers for all you can, and thank them on behalf of all Tasmanians!

Love your work.

Peter Cusick | December 14, 2015 at 05:21 pm

Thanks Mona and David for the Gilbert and George exhibition its fantastic and a must see.

klektik | December 14, 2015 at 05:04 pm

Looking forward to Tom Otterness work. I worked for him in 1982 in New York making the cornices for the subway commission with my old friend Jan Dayman.

Ben Fox | December 14, 2015 at 03:48 pm

I'm really looking forward to seeing how your vision for the future of MONA plays out. It has certainly changed the conversational landscapes both in Hobart and nationally.

Rhonda Langford | December 13, 2015 at 03:43 pm

Thank you,
For your had work, vision and drive. Tasmania needs more of you. I have lived in Glenorchy all my life. I own and run a ladies fashion boutique in Moonah. Your the best thing we have had in years keep bringing that mainland dollar to our beautiful little state.
Cheers Rhonda

Marilyn Camp | December 13, 2015 at 07:45 pm

Hi there, I am humbled to your endeavours, and I found MONA an amazing and for me, quite unbelievable place to visit. I am in awe of the actual building and what and how it must have been constructed, I just cannot get it into my head how it was done! To be honest I am not an artistic person, at all, but I am impressed by the whole concept of MONA. You David are to be absolutely congratulated on what you have done for not only the people of Tasmania, but for anyone who has the privilege of visiting your venue. I was not going to visit, but on my second last day in Hobart earlier this year, I did, and I do not regret this for one minute. I so hope your plans can proceed, and you are able to give more pleasure, wows, and employment to all who are at MONA, and other related projects. I wish you and your family only the best for the future. Thankyou once again for a never to be repeated experience, and I look forward to seeing what else you are able to achieve. Thankyou for this ability to thank you.

Ilana hamilton | December 13, 2015 at 06:22 pm

All such exciting news! Just visited MONA for the first time and was blown away, love what you dream and do. Can't wait to come back again.

Louise Martin-Chew (@126Lmc) | December 13, 2015 at 06:07 pm

So many visions! What a country we would have if your average everyday politician had 0.5% of these ideas, creativity and passions? Can't wait!

Tony | December 13, 2015 at 04:59 pm

I love it thank you for sharing this, I can't wait to see how this develops over the coming years.

Ray Sawford | December 13, 2015 at 02:26 pm

Slideshows of new developments are too rapid. They need a pause provision for in depth viewing...Cheers .......Ray.

sgendler | December 13, 2015 at 02:47 pm

What an extraordinary gift to all of Tasmania. MONA is a destination, quite unlike any other. We were there in 2011, from the US, when it opened. We follow Mona news from many sources, but none so entertaining as David Walsh. It is a mind expanding concept. Suggestions for the future - art by Takis, kinetic and compelling. Take a look at the Monster Garden, 80 km from Rome, for 400 year old art that still boggles the mind. We can't wait to return, next November.

angelaustralis | December 14, 2015 at 11:13 pm

You David are the jewel in Tasmania's crown. You 'walked as a kid to your holiday at the caravan park in Berriedale'!!!!!! That's a cLASSIC! That takes the cake :-) And these plans look amazing. A Glenorchy boy- we are so proud. Thankyou!!!

Polly Venning | December 14, 2015 at 09:05 am

Thank you, I have stopped you at dark MoFo the first year and said thank you then I had to walk off before I got too emotional. Thank you for bringing us light, a unique way of looking at the world for broadening our horizons and yet for still keeping it real. Most of all thank you for ensuring that the average person can still enjoy and yes even love. Believe or not we are not all cool, artistic educated or even widely read - so thanks. Build it David, Build it.

Sarah | December 15, 2015 at 10:43 pm

Over the years from our house on the hill we have seen many changes to MONA. Including its metamorphosis from a little winery. It easy to have NIMBY moments when the music is pumping and there's not a quiet spot to be found during a concert. But other times a ferry ride into town in the posh pit to start a night out reminds of us how much we do like having MONA around. Armana is one of our favourite parts of our night view, and we like the purple hue the best. We do have some trepidation about your plans, and exactly what they mean for our fairly sleepy suburb, but time will tell no doubt. And nothing stays the same. I think possibly one of the reasons you are not seeing a community growing around MONA is because there really is not anything MONA does specifically targeting the immediate suburbs. It might be worth thinking about inviting your neighbours over for a beer sometime :p

Gemorris | December 16, 2015 at 07:29 am

You sir are the light on the hill.

carolynaudet | December 16, 2015 at 10:00 am

How exciting, I cant wait to see it all develop...All the Best to You and Art!!

Jim Lillas | December 15, 2015 at 07:50 pm

Go for it you good thing Mr Walsh. You are the breathe of fresh air Tasmania so needed. Excellent.

heidi ruckriegel | December 17, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Pretty cool, look forward to seeing the projects at Marion Bay, too! When i was a kid, we sometimes had parties in our caravan in the carpark of the flats where we lived. That was back in Germany. It was more exciting than being in the tiny flat, even though the caravan was tinier. My kids were brought up on a farm at Karoola and once wanted to 'camp out', so they slept in the goat hut in the garden. Doesn't matter how far away it is, does it, it just has to be something different from the everyday humdrum.

We're building a little house and an even smaller visitor house down at Snug up the hill, It'll be spotted gum let go grey, with views of Bruny Island and iron Pot. Come and stay with us if you ever want to have another not-very-far-away holiday! I occasionally update the progress on my blog.

PS - there is a local flow-on effect, a house for rent in Chigwell was recently advertised as being in "MONA Heights", with views of the edifice. So there you go. maybe the suburb should be renamed?

Lynelle | December 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm

Wow, wow, wow!
Where do I sign up to be part of this and help it all happen! 😃🌟

natasha grafanakis | January 17, 2016 at 02:33 pm

Wow! I have just discovered your blog, love it. Love everything you do actually, really excited about the caravan park and and just thought I'd share an idea for the name. How do you feel about MOVA? Acro of mona and vardo (romani wagon). Anyway I'm sure you have it covered, just thought I'd put my two cents in! Keep up the brilliant work👏👏👏

Darren B | September 15, 2016 at 06:00 pm

I'd like to see an underground Ferris Wheel put in at MONA where the highest point of the wheel brings you just to ground level, so that way you could catch the Ferris Wheel to an underground entrance to the gallery, or catch it back up to the surface. You could maybe get Wim to design it in an iron lace work style, or just make it like a trashy carnie wheel of fortune type ride into a sideshow alley of art?
Something along the lines of this Ferris Wheel in a mine in Romania -
You could bill it as the Tasmanian Wheel, or Down-under Wheel and take the piss out of wheels like the Melbourne Wheel.
Just a thought, but maybe not a practical one.

K Mason | March 3, 2017 at 03:57 pm

As someone with a one bedroom house plan taking a siesta in a pigeon hole at the HCC, reading this has certainly stopped my whinging. Well done.