TASSIE, the Apple Isle? No way!
In the grand tradition of “build it, they will come” Tasmania is enjoying a MONA (Museum of Old and New Art)-led surge in tourism popularity which has seen the state leap into international rankings as a destination. The latest and greatest confirmation of this comes from Hobart being named in Lonely Planet’s 2013 top ten city destinations in the world. According to Lonely Planet, Hobart’s allure has always been its natural beauty “… but the arrival of the world-class MONA museum has the waters rippling, hip tourists flocking and Hobart rousing from its slumber”.
MONA opened its doors in January 2011 and last year won the 2012 Australian Tourism Award for best new development. It is Tasmania’s single-most-visited attraction and in its first 18 months drew 600,000 visitors. A friend and I added to that number last month joining the ranks of the gob-smacked, amazed and exhilarated. In keeping with its reputation for being “different” MONA is built underground. Sixty thousand tonnes of earth and sandstone were removed before the building could begin and lining the interior walls took 3 kilometres of rock sawing, 1.5 kilometres of drilling for rock bolts to maintain the rock face and 5500 cubic metres of concrete to fill the ensuing hole.
MONA sits on a promontory jutting into the Derwent River, 30-minutes ride from Hobart’s famous harbour area in a camouflage-patterned trimaran ferry from which patrons can enjoy the passing riparian scenery sipping a flat white from the well appointed coffee shop-lounge. MONA’s quirky entrance is reminiscent of a fun parlour’s hall of mirrors. The current exhibition – not for the faint-hearted – features works by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, including X-rays of people having sex, a close-up movie of a pimple being squeezed, a gothic concrete truck, tattooed pig skins and a tattooed man, Tim Steiner, who has been sold as a piece of art.
While many mainland and international tourists go to Tasmania specifically to see MONA, the island’s rapidly growing reputation for fine food and wine, especially since The Gourmet Farmer TV series on SBS, adds pulling power when combined with Hobart’s traditional charms of a vibrant, historic port, outstanding colonial architecture and the famous Saturday Salamanca Market. Added to this are the natural heritage of treasures likes the Freycinet Peninsula, the majestic coastlines of the Tasman Peninsula and Bruny Island, and pristine environments like the Tarkine preserved (so far) by the efforts of dedicated “greenies”. I was particularly impressed by the respect shown by Hobartians to their colonial heritage and the proactive TLC injected into saving old buildings. Coming from a city where the penchant seems more for “knockin’ ‘em down” than preserving, I was jealous!