A guest post by Duncan Spender.
I visited the recently opened Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) this week. It shows that great art doesn’t need government support.
Despite the fact that it mixes cavernous sandstone architecture with a synthetic tennis court, and it displays ancient coins alongside hanging carcasses, the MONA has a coherence that other museums and galleries lack. It is clear that the MONA is the creation not of a bureaucracy, but of an individual (and an interesting individual at that).
It’s the creation of David Walsh, an internet gambling millionaire. He built the stunning building near where he grew up in the working class outer suburbs of Hobart. He filled it with his eclectic personal collection (some of which would be too extreme for a State-funded gallery). He decided against having blurbs next to each artwork, so as not to interfere with the feel of the place (and because you can borrow a free ipod loaded with all the ‘artwank’ you could want). And in the middle of his gallery he installed a cool bar, which, like the rest of the place, is set to make massive losses (gallery entry is free).
So while the GOMA in Brisbane shows that government support need not kill great art, the MONA shows that government support is in no way necessary.