MONA expansion plans

Author: Kendall Hill

David Walsh's next phase of artistic licence.

Hobart's MONA-fication continues apace as the hyperactive mind of David Walsh, founder of Tasmania's game-changing private museum, conjures new ways to stimulate the southern capital.

First up is a planned extension to the Museum of Old and New Art. A new gallery jutting over the Derwent will house four new "light works" by US artist James Turrell, whose gazebo-like Amarna installation, a feature of this summer's The Golden Hour dining experience at the Wine Bar, has captivated visitors.

Behind MONA, on Lowestoft Bay, a dinky caravan park called Treasure Island is about to be revived as a tourist park with artist-decorated vans, hanging "pods" and camping spaces to accommodate up to 50,000 visitors a year. Walsh has also confirmed he's pushing ahead with the 160-odd-room HOMO, the Hotel MONA, which will feature a theatre, spa, restaurant and rooms decorated by noted artists such as Marina Abramovi and Turrell. No opening date is scheduled yet.

Walsh's plans for a high-end, visitors-only casino - called Monaco, of course - hinge on the State Government breaking its addiction to the decades-old gambling monopoly in the state (held by the Federal Group), but in the meantime Walsh has engaged Mexican architect Javier Senosiain to create a very unconventional casino that blends gardens, art and architecture.

In other news, the MONA team has signed to consult to the State Government on developing the public spaces in Hobart's 9.3-hectare Macquarie Point port revamp, a project with echoes of Sydney's Barangaroo. Forty per cent of the site is earmarked for public space, offering a one-off opportunity, says MONA's creative director Leigh Carmichael, to look at what Hobart needs - perhaps a major outdoor performance arena or public arts space. Given last year's Dark MOFO winter festival drew 76,000 visitors to Macquarie Point for the first time in years, the city is keen to tap into MONA's ideas.

"MONA is in a unique position because we have had success activating unused spaces in the city since 2009," says Carmichael. "And clearly we take risks and push boundaries." Speaking of Dark MOFO, expect to see a new festival precinct and the biggest program yet when it kicks off on 10 June.

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