DM's Hobart 2017 Diary

Day 6 - MONA

Wednesday, 27 December, 2017

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The alarm went off at 07:00 this morning, waking us for our day at the MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. We ate breakfast, me having the leftover rice and vegetables from last night's Thai dinner. Then we walked down the hill into Hobart again to Brooke Street Pier where we would catch the ferry to MONA.

On the way we stopped at Daci & Daci so M. could get a coffee. She also got a gingerbread biscotti which had pistachios, cranberries, and fig bits in it, making it a bit Christmassy. Then we crossed the road over to the pier and into a queue for the ferry. Most people were directed to turn right off the gangplank into the large seating area, but we had special "Posh Pit" tickets, which entitled us to turn left into the exclusive lounge area with plush leather seating and a private bar, where a server handed us glasses of sparkling wine. We grabbed seats by the window on the port side, with a small table to put our drinks on.

Monkey in the Posh Pit
In the Posh Pit, on the MONA ferry

Once we got underway, the server came around and put plates of canapés on the tables where the few other small groups of people were sitting in the Posh Pit. Our plate had two each of: bocconcini in a pastry cup with pesto and some garnish, smoked salmon with creme fraiche and dill on a mini pancake, and a round of watermelon with bits of other fruit and nuts and yoghurt on top. The trip took about 25 minutes, and M. had time to ask for a coffee as well, though it was hot and she didn't quite finish it off before we arrived at MONA.

Climbing to MONA
Up the steps from the wharf to MONA

At the museum we walked up the steps from the docking pier to the museum entrance on the hill above. The museum is entirely underground, dug into the sandstone rock of the hill, and after dropping my camera bag and our hats in a locker we descended the spiral staircase down to the bottom of the three underground levels. Here we entered an amazing long and tall chamber, with a posh looking bar at the entrance. We walked down the corridor and found the first artwork, which was a contraption that dripped water in streams from several metres up, the water coming out in computer controlled bursts that made word shapes, which were illuminated by spotlights, so the words formed fell and distorted through the air. It was fascinating, and dozens of people stared captivated at it.

Entrance gallery
MONA entrance gallery

Near this was the entrance to the special exhibit, the Museum of Everything, which is a travelling exhibition of art by people "untrained and undiscovered". It's basically art created by people who are not professional artists, who have everyday jobs and just make things as a hobby, or people who are homeless or institutionalised with mental illness and create things as a way of coping. There was a queue to get into this section, with staff letting in only a few people at a time to control numbers. We got in fairly quickly, but later on when we emerged the queue was maybe 200 people long.

Every day of the year
A man sketched the landscape near his home every day for a full year

The artworks in this exhibit covered an amazingly diverse range of subjects and media, from detailed sketches on paper napkins in ballpoint pen made by a man with photographic memory, to folk-art-like paintings of African American heroes by an ex-slave done on wooden boards and corrugated iron, to large doll-like figures made of wool by a mute woman who had been institutionalised as a child and rescued many years later by her twin sister. These are just a sample of the hundreds of works we saw.

Psychedelic art
Museum of Everything exhibit

We had to leave the exhibit before completing it because we had a 12:00 lunch booking at The Source restaurant, which was in an adjacent building. This was a fancy restaurant, and we had a table in a corner of two glass walls, with a good view over a lawn area below and beyond to the Derwent River and the hills of the opposite shore. The lawn was a picnic area for museum visitors, and was busy with people sitting under umbrellas on large beanbags. Chickens wandered around on the lawn among the people, mostly fearless, except when small children decided to chase them. On a balcony just outside our windows were outdoor tables of the restaurant, which had thick wooden tops, evidently filled with soil, because growing on top was a thick carpet of low ground cover plants and flowers, on top of which were set linen serviettes, cutlery, and water glasses.

Hobbit table
Outside table at The Source restaurant

We ordered entrees: goat cheese and gruyere soufflé with asparagus and herbs for M., and wallaby, smoked beetroot, almond and wattle seed butter, and fried shallots for me. M.'s main dish was roast eggplant with miso, wild rice, tomatoes, koji pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and kombu, while I selected the kingfish with dried tomatoes, fennel, orange, olives, sake butter, and chives. M. tried a Moorilla sparkling rosé, made at the winery on the museum site, while I tried a Moo Brew pale ale, from the brewery attached to the museum. The entrees were very good, but the mains didn't quite hit the spot for either of us; they were okay, but nothing special. By the time we finished, it was getting close to our 14:30 winery tour booking, so instead of trying to go see more of the museum, we tarried and I ordered the cheesecake dessert, which came in an individual bowl, with the cheesecake filling topped with a nicely crunchy biscuit crumble, tangy passionfruit curd, blood orange pieces, and shavings of candied lemon and lime. It was really good.

Cheesecake with citrus
Citrus cheesecake dessert at The Source

The tour of Moorilla Estate winery started right outside the restaurant, and a young woman met us with two glasses and a box containing some bottles. She said there were supposed to be four of us on the tour, but the other couple hadn't showed up, so we got a completely personal tour. She started by pouring us samples of the same sparkling rosé that M. had had with lunch. We sipped it as we walked out to the vineyards, where she explained the history of Moorilla Estate and about the vines around us. They were growing new vines, with ones one year, two years, and four years old in the vicinity, next to plantings of old vines dating back to the establishment of the winery in the 1960s, as the very first winery in southern Tasmania.

Monkey and vines
Monkey in the Moorilla Estate vines

It was started by an Italian immigrant who grew grapes despite everyone telling him that the climate didn't suit them, but he chose cool climate varieties like Riesling and Pinot noir that did well. The business was bought by a pair of brothers who tried to make it a large scale winery, but succeeded only in driving the quality down, eventually selling it to David Walsh, the current owner, who turned it back into a small volume, high quality boutique winery. Walsh is also the force behind MONA, starting the museum from his own private art collection as a way to gather even more art and establish a way to make it accessible to the public.

Monkey press
Wine press

The woman then led us into the pressing and fermenting room, a large space inside a nearby building, full of stainless steel vats, grape crushing equipment, and huge metal tubs in which she explained that some grapes are "bunch fermented", by simply piling the bunches in and letting gravity press the lower ones, while wild yeast begins the fermentation process. Other varieties are debunched, semi-pressed, and left to ferment with wild yeast in other tubs, while yet other varieties are fully pressed, the juice piped into the steel vats, and inoculated with controlled yeast strains. The particular process chosen depends on the grapes and the intended style of the resulting wine.

Wine making thing
Wine making machinery

Next we went into the barrel room, where some wines are aged in oak barrels. They use new barrels here because the wine maker prefers the new oak character, retiring old barrels after about ten years. The barrel room was deliciously cool compared to the hot day developing outside. Here our tour ended, and she left us to return to the vineyard to get a few more photos with the vines and the bunches of tiny grapes growing there.

Lady Standing at a Virginal
3D recreation of Vermeer's Lady Standing at a Virginal

After this, we returned to the museum to check out the two floors of exhibits above the single bottom floor where we'd begun earlier. But first we went down to the Museum of Everything shop to M. could get a souvenir calico bag. Then we traversed the next two floors, wending back and forth through the permanent exhibits, finding a lot of very cool and interesting works, among some quirky, bizarre, obscure, head-scratching, and disturbing things. The whole experience was somewhat overwhelming, but definitely mind expanding and interesting.

Snake, Sidney Nolan
Snake, by Sidney Nolan

Approaching 17:00 we needed to return to queue for the ferry back to Hobart. Our tickets were scanned at the top of the steps and we joined a long queue of passengers waiting for the boat to arrive. We saw an odd few people walking down the steps next to us, apparently jumping ahead in the queue. We thought this was odd, until a staff member came by asking if anyone had Posh Pit tickets. When we showed ours, she told us to walk down to the front of the queue! So when the boat arrived a few minutes later, we were among the first on, and headed for comfy seats again in the front of the boat.

We turned down the bubbly this time, but I grabbed a free beer and M. had another coffee. For the return trip they didn't have savoury canapés, but instead brought us a plate of petit fours: a rum ball and three small square slices of different cakes. This was a pleasant surprise, as I'd been thinking that more savoury snacks would spoil dinner. As it was, we were both so full from the lunch that neither of us felt like contemplating waiting around in central Hobart until dinner time and finding a restaurant. M. suggested we buy some groceries and just have sandwiches for dinner later back at our motel.

Posh Pit petits fours
Petits fours in the Posh Pit

This sounded good, so we walked over to Salamanca Fresh and bought some bread rolls, apples, an orange, and a small tub of potato salad. We still had cheese and peanut butter in or room, and enough milk for breakfast tomorrow, so we were set. Then it was the walk up the hill again, leaving us hot and exhausted in the hot weather. We even had to turn the air conditioning on to cool the room down. After a simple dinner we had finished another day.

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