The Museum of Old and New Art, a privately-run institution in Australia’s Southern city of Hobart, has been a smash-hit: a hugely popular yet decidedly avant-garde institution that has energised tourism in its home city and raised the bar for other museums across Australia.
I’ll be back in Melbourne for Christmas and I’m seriously considering hopping over the Bass Strait for MONA’s newest exhibition “On the Origins of Art”. The museum invited four prominent scientists to each curate a competing display arguing their case for the evolutionary purpose of art – why, exactly do we need it? Highbrow stuff but also fascinating and the list of works on show is incredibly exciting: there are works by Yayoi Kusama and Hokusai while Takashi Murakami’s “My Lonesome Cowboy” (above) argues for art as a kind of elaborate courtship ritual. But what of the Benin bronzes and Egyptian mummies from Africa, the abstract patterns of Islamic mosaics, the eerily hyper-real grotesquery of Patricia Piccinini and Walton Ford’s macabre, chilling Tasmanian tigers?