David Walsh & MONA

How a multi-millionaire poker player changed the face of the art and museums

Mental health UK recently ran a study on how the arts can have a positive influence on our mental health. The study found that engaging in arts and interacting with their associated communities can help with major challenges we face, such as anxiety, depression and stress. It can also help to boost confidence and make us feel more engaged and resilient. Besides these benefits, art engagement also makes us here at Orlo,  just happy.!

With that in mind, we thought we would share our favourite disruptive museum and their story as they celebrate 10 years of MONAism in Tasmania,  the darling of the art scene. 

When MONA, Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art, opened 10 years ago, its super modern architecture,  partly subterranean space station excited the whole art world. But because its owner and creator David Walsh is “a multi-millionaire gambler”, it was also dubbed “a museum of sex and death”, an art world “Disneyland”.  Walsh who describes himself as being “on the spectrum”, realised he had a savant-like ability to count cards. He and his syndicate are now banned from all major casinos around the world. Undaunted, he has turned his skills to winning at horseracing, employing banks of computers and the algorithm-chasing maths graduates who operate them.   

But it is the ever-increasing value and love of his permanent art collection at MONA that is at the heart of his personal wealth.  His first exhibition MONAnism opened in January 2011, it showcased only works from his collection, ranging from ancient Egyptian sarcophagi to Damien Hirst spin paintings.  If the opening night set the bar high, the next 10 years didn’t disappoint. A pattern emerged of large solo shows alternating with vast, thematic surveys. Marina Abramovic, Wim Delvoye, Matthew Barney and Gilbert & George have each had some of the biggest exhibitions of their careers.  An exhibition of the postwar European Zero group was of historical importance and included works by Heinz Mack, Lucio Fontana, and the world’s largest, swimming pool-sized Yves Klein blue floor piece. 

The themed exhibitions have ranged from thought-provoking to spectacular. For one, On The Origin Of Art, Walsh asked some of his “scientist buddies” the question — “We need art. But for what?” The result was an exhibition curated by a range of neuroscientists and philosophers — Steven Pinker, Geoffrey Miller, Brian Boyd and Mark Changizi.s. 

Life on Planet MONA has now come full-circle bringing Walsh’s own ever-expanding collection to the foreground, with a strong emphasis on local artists such as Pat Brassington and Brigita Ozolins. ‘Tim’ (2006)  So what has been added since 2011? Outdoors, there is an enormous James Turrell light pavilion, best viewed at dawn and dusk against the backdrop of the rugged Tasmanian landscape. In the museum’s lowest levels, exquisite ever-changing light and sound corridors, named “Siloam” after the ancient tunnels in Jerusalem, transport you from one gallery to the next. Richard Wilson’s “20:50” oil installation, bought from Charles Saatchi, can be found near here too. 

Hopefully, we will be able to travel again soon, and for those moments you feel you need an extra helping hand, or as part of a sustained wellbeing routine, give Orlo CBD oils a try. Blended with the finest organic ingredients, these natural oils are purported to help millions manage anxiety and pain and improve sleep – all things which can impact your ability to live your best life.

site – mona.net.au   

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