Hobart’s MONA now too big to fail

In Attractions, Australian Cultural Exports, Australian Domestic Tourism, Media and Communications, National Headlines, Tasmania, Tourism Routes

TTN, 20th March 2015: MONA’s David Walsh – former recluse, gambling m/billionaire, former disowner of gambling as a revenue stream – now has the Tasmanian government on side to turn MONA into a gambling venue. In October 2014, ‘anti-pokies’ MP Andrew Wilkie came out in support of Walsh – now the Tasmanian government is bending the rules to allow gaming outside the monopoly licence currently held by Federal Group.

MONA casino bid prompts talks over Federal Group monopoly

From abc.net.au, 20th March 2015

The Tasmanian Government is in talks with Federal Group about breaking its monopoly on casinos to allow the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) to open a gambling venue.

The museum which was started by millionaire gambler David Walsh last year revealed plans for a high rollers casino for tourists only in a bid to increase revenue.

But a deed of agreement giving Federal Group an exclusive licence to operate the state’s two casinos and poker machines stands in the way.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein told Parliament on Thursday the Government was negotiating with the company to allow MONA to go ahead before the agreement expires in 2023.

“Obviously, with the deed in place, any such development at MONA would not be able to take place until 2023 at the earliest,” he said.

“Accordingly, the Government has explored at officer level with Federal Group the grounds on which a MONA casino could be brought forward earlier than 2023.”

The Treasurer ruled out using an increase in the number of poker machines allowed in the state as a bargaining chip.

Mr Gutwein said the proposed boutique casino was important to the future of MONA which runs at a loss.

“There have been discussions with MONA about the nature of those plans – particularly in relation to how it would underpin the ongoing financial viability of the museum, which I think we can all agree, has proved a real game changer for Tasmania.

“No decisions have been made by the Government, Federal Group or MONA about if, how and when a MONA casino might happen,” he told parliament.

Anti-pokies MP Andrew Wilkie backs MONA casino

From the Hobart Mercury, 5th October 2015

ONE of Federal Parliament’s fiercest critics of the gambling industry has thrown his support behind David Walsh’s plan for a casino at the Mus­eum of Old and New Art.

Andrew Wilkie has been a thorn in the side of casinos, pubs and clubs since he was first elected to the Hobart seat of Denison on an anti-pokies platform in 2010.

Mr Wilkie told the Sunday Tasmanian he would support a pokies-free, tourist-only, high-roller MONA casino, provided a social impact study “comes up clean”.

Mr Walsh would need to get around Federal Group’s monopoly on casino oper­ations in Tasmania.

The State Government has said it is “seeking advice” on the proposal.

Mr Wilkie’s support for a new casino in Tasmania, even one that is poker-machine free and aimed solely at tourists, will undoubtedly attract criticism from his opponents.

He said he was anti-pokies, not anti-gambling.

“I’m not a wowser. I drink, I’ll buy a Scratchie myself, on Melbourne Cup day I’ll put $5 and take part in the office sweep but I’m determined to do what I can to address areas of gambling that are partic­ularly problematic,” Mr Wilkie said.

His main concerns were pokies, which accounted for an estimated 80 per cent of problem gamblers, and some forms of online gambling.

Mr Wilkie said he trusted Mr Walsh, who makes his mill­ions through complex computer programs focused on totalisator gambling.

“I do trust David, I don’t see it as any mischievous scheme to get some pokies barn into the northern suburbs,” he said.

Mr Walsh revealed his casino plan last week, saying it would help make MONA “a better-than-break-square” proposition.

Australia’s most famous punter has rejected the industry that made his fortune

From Melbourne’s Herald Sun, 10th October 2014

TTN Note: This article is in complete contradiction of the casino plans that were being reported in other media outlets in October 2014 – but this article does serve the saintly image of a person who won’t be challenged when he wants to bend rules to allow casinos.

David Walsh at MONA in Hobart. (Feature) Picture: NEWSCORP

AUSTRALIA’S most famous gambler has turned his back on the industry that has made him famous — and wealthy beyond his dreams.

“It’s the worst endeavour you can undertake,” says David Walsh, the multi-millionaire Tasmanian arts patron who set up the country’s hottest museum.

“You’ve got a very small chance of making it big and you’re very likely to suffer, whereas if you do something normal you won’t end up freakishly wealthy, but you will end up content.”

It’s a big statement from a man who has made his considerable fortune over 35 years on the punt.

Walsh used his gambling funds — and an $80 million loan from his best mate — to build a private arts kingdom, the Museum of Old and New Art, just outside Hobart.

David Walsh of MONA as a young man. Picture: SUPPLIED

David Walsh of MONA as a young man. Picture: SUPPLIED

It has lured 1.25 million people from around the world in less than four years and Tourism Industry Council Tasmania estimates it contributes more than $100 million a year to the state’s economy. But Walsh, who has just written his memoir, A Bone of Fact, says his good fortune hasn’t just been about gambling.

“I became a winner through having the good fortune to meet people who understand the principles involved in getting an edge,” he says.

He claims he wins more than $8 million a year as a member of the world’s largest gambling syndicate, the 12-person group known as the Bank Roll, and ploughs almost all of it back into MONA, which he says loses $8 million a year despite its enormous popularity.

These days his concern is how to ensure MONA survives beyond his lifetime and how to communicate with his children and grandchildren from beyond the grave (or more likely the MONA cinerarium).

David Walsh and his partner Kirsha Kaechele at MONA. Picture: NEWSCORP

David Walsh and his partner Kirsha Kaechele at MONA. Picture: NEWSCORP

“When I built MONA it never occurred to me that I, or anyone else, would care if it survived me and now much to my surprise, chagrin and glee, there does seem to be some interest in sustaining it,” he says.

That is not to say Walsh expects to die any time soon or that he is in any way depressed. In fact, staff at MONA and the attached winery, Moorilla, say they have never seen their boss happier, a fact they attribute largely to his wife, Californian artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele.

“My method of making money is somewhat arbitrary to say the least and, let’s face it, I might keel over,” Walsh says. “I’m trying to figure out ways to make this little place make enough money to allow it to continue to stage exhibitions until it disappears under the global warming-induced high waters.”

To that end, Walsh plans to build a major hotel at MONA and although he acknowledges it is a “longshot”, he would also love to build a small, high-roller, tourist-only, no-pokies casino on-site.

David Walsh and Kirsha Kaecheleat the Wim Delvoye Chapel at MONA. Picture: NEWSCORP

David Walsh and Kirsha Kaecheleat the Wim Delvoye Chapel at MONA. Picture: NEWSCORP

He has again engaged MONA architect Nonda Katsalidis to design HOMO, the new hotel, and says he will proceed regardless of whether or not he gets approval for a casino.

Walsh’s conversation is peppered with anecdotes and it is his storytelling ability that makes his memoir such a rollicking good read.

Clad in his trademark combination of jacket (today’s version is tweed with a silk floral print lining) over a band T-shirt (the Cure) with designer jeans and sneakers, Walsh happily talks about the joys of introducing his 10-year-old daughter, Grace, to the music that was the soundtrack to his early years, including David Bowie and the Beatles. “She was particularly impressed with Drive My Car,” he says.

He discusses his thwarted ambition to become a professional table tennis player and his love of the Roy Grounds building he inherited from Moorilla winery founder Claudio Alcorso, which now houses the MONA library.

Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) building in Hobart. Picture: Newton Matt

Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) building in Hobart. Picture: Newton Matt

Walsh was inspired to “crystallise and encapsulate” all that he is when he read comments to a similar effect made by the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs, on his biography. “I’m not dying but longer-term I thought, ‘that’s a great way to communicate with your kids’, except that I’d rather be unfiltered by a top-notch writer who has opinions,” Walsh says.

After a rocky start to being a dad, which Walsh candidly details in A Bone of Fact, he has wholeheartedly embraced the joys of
fatherhood. His first daughter, Jamie, works in childcare, is about to be married and has a young son, Lockie.

“Jamie is incredibly content and happy, I don’t think there’s anything I would change except possibly the way I interacted with her when she was young,” Walsh says.


The first public open day of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) at Moorilla Winery Esta

The first public open day of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) at Moorilla Winery Estate, built by Tasmanian multi-millionaire and arts philanthropist David Walsh. Picture: Luke Bowden

MONA: The world’s most far-out museum

Tasmania’s newest attraction is the brainchild of a pro gambler with a unique sense of humor

From CNN.com.au, 2nd Feburary 2012

MONA Museum of Old and New Art

MONA hugs the Derwent, ripping the “stuffy” out of art museums.

Chiseled into an escarpment on the banks of the Derwent River in the northern suburbs of Hobart is a subterranean fortress housing one of the most confronting and controversial collections of art in the world.

The crowning achievement of Tasmanian David Walsh, a mathematician and art collector who made millions perfecting algorithms that let him to beat casinos and bookies at their own game,MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) has made a name for itself by breaking every rule in the book since opening its doors in January of last year.

The entrance, for example, casts aside the grand porticos and columns commonly seen at museums in favor of a synthetic tennis court and unmarked doorway.

“When you go to a conventional museum you are forced to walk up stairs and past pillars meant to make you feel small and then have academics tell you it’s culture,” says research curator Delia Nicholls. “But David wanted none of that so he built this place underground.”

Why the tennis court? “Because he likes tennis,” says Nicholls.

Into the deep

MONA Museum of Old and New ArtYes, this really is the entrance to one of the world’s hottest new museums.

MONA’s foyer is incorporated in a heritage-listed building that looks like something out of “The Jetsons.”

Visitors are given an iPod touch that uses GPS to work out which artwork they are standing in front of, then gives a running commentary from Walsh himself, interviews with the artists and plenty more.

That all comes via a button on the iPod marked “Art Wank” — you get the idea of the tone Walsh is trying to set now, perhaps.

From the lobby, a spiral staircase descends 17 meters underground, ending in a cathedral-like basement cordoned by a 250-million-year-old Triassic sandstone wall that Walsh, who once described himself as a “rabid atheist,” left exposed to challenge creationists on their beliefs.

What follows are three levels of steel and stone festooned with art and objects based around sex, death and evolution that are concurrently shocking, educational and entertaining.

To impart just a taste of the museum, first among these is a chocolate sculpture of the remains of a Chechen suicide bomber. Yes, chocolate.

bit.fall 2006-2007“Bit.fall” brings the day’s headlines to life in liquid form.

One level up, a wall has been lined with white porcelain molds of female genitalia, while another wall shows a very large image of a man engaged in an unhealthy act with a dog.

A room-sized machine made of giant test tubes fed by a series of pumps parodies the digestive tract by turning food into a brown gooey paste, while an engorged and distended Porsche Carrera sagging with fat offers comment on mindless overindulgence.

Then there’s “Bit.fall,” a “rain-painting machine” created by German born artist Julius Popp. Spanning two stories, this multi-million dollar contraption uses 128 computer-controlled nozzles to drip cascades of water in the shape of phrases selected daily from news websites. You really need to see it, of course.

Sprinkled among these masterpieces of modern art, as though there were never a reason to keep them apart, are selections from Walsh’s private collection of antiquities.

They include a 1,500-year-old Egyptian sarcophagus, gold coins taken from one of the statues at the Partheon in Athens and a collage made of Neolithic flints.

More on CNNGo: Into the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness

Eat, drink, sleep

Moorilla Winery and VineyardMoorilla Winery and Vineyard provides a refreshing, and very Tasmanian, end to the day.

On emerging from the deep, shell-shocked visitors can refuel at MONA’s al fresco café, wine bar or The Source restaurant.

Resident at The Source, Michelin-starred chef Philippe Leban blends wholesome Tasmanian ingredients and traditional French cuisine to make culinary artworks like roast duck breast with caramelized almonds and Ike Jime line-caught fish with oyster tartare.

MONA is built on the ground of Moorilla Estate, Tasmania’s second-oldest vineyard, which produces knockout cool-climate wine like Muse Botrytis Riesling and Muse Vintage Brut. Wine-tasting sessions are held daily, as are beer tours at MONA’s Moo Brewery.

Visitors can also stay the night at one of eight luxurious art-laden pavilions inspired by shipping containers and stylish A-frame homes of the 1960s that look like Darth Vader’s lair.

Combined with an outdoor concert stage set on a grassy hillock, a book shop, jewelry store and the scenic river bush land setting, it’s little wonder MONA topped “Gourmet Traveller” magazine’s list of the top 100 places to visit in the world.

No good deed …

Walsh was raised in a conservative Catholic family. But on becoming an atheist at the age of 12, he made a pact with his parents that in place of going to church every Sunday, he would visit theTasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart instead.

“David could do that because the museum was free and the experience changed his life,” Nicholls says. “He wanted to give that opportunity to everyone, which is why he made his museum free for Tasmanians.”

Despite Walsh’s generosity and the sizeable dent MONA has put in his bank account — the site cost $75 million to build, contains $30 million worth of art and costs $8 million a year to run — some visitors have chosen an odd way to show their gratitude.

Earlier this year, thieves walked off with 290 of the iPod audio guides, worth nearly $300 each, after taking them to the bathrooms and removing their security chips. Staff were also shocked to find an outdoor sculpture of a car vandalized.

Walsh reacted by implementing new security measures but did not notify police. Rather, he stepped up his largesse by announcing the launch of FOMA (Festival of Music and Art).

This year’s 10-day festival, directed by former Violent Femmes bass guitarist Brian Ritchie, saw the likes of British singer-songwriter PJ Harvey, Australian dance troupe BalletLab and Mongolian throat singers Hanggai wow audiences in a series of free and ticketed events held on-site and at venues in and around Hobart.

Getting there: MONA is at 655 Main Road, Berridale, Hobart, Tasmania 7011, with free car parking on site. Alternatively, the MONA ferry departs six times a day from the Brooke Street ferry terminal in Hobart. Return tickets are $15 per person. Bicycles are also for hire at the terminal for $15 a day.

Entry to MONA is free for Tasmanians (proof of identify not required), $10 for non-Tasmanian concession cardholders and $20 for out-of-staters over 18. Open Wednesday to Monday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Staying there: MONA’s eight accommodation pavilions are equipped with kitchen, laundry, wine fridge, wireless touch panels, Wi-Fi and spa, with mid-week specials for $390 a night, including breakfast for two.

Eating and drinking there: The Source restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, starting from 6.30 a.m., midday and 6.30 p.m., respectively.

The Moorilla Estate cellar door is open daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with winery tours and tasting at 3.30 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Moo Brewery offers tasting tours at 4 p.m. on Friday for $10 per person. Bookings are recommended.

For more information, visit www.mona.net.au or call +61 (3) 6277 9900.


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