Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art has been doing its very best to confound visitors since 2011. Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh's extravagant subterranean art gallery, built on grounds that overlook the Tasmanian capital’s picturesque harbour, is the perfect setting for art shows you wouldn’t encounter anywhere else in the country—or even the world. Its latest offering, On the Origin of Art, is opening this weekend with all the Great Gatsby-style fanfare we’ve come to expect.
"You can't compare it to a normal gallery opening—you just can't, it's not possible. The scale in which we like to do things—it's fun," Jarrod Rawlins, a curator at Mona, tells The Creators Project.
“Expect probably a little bit of the unexpected, and some of the familiar.”
The show's opening weekend will be accompanied by a massive party on the Mona grounds, free and open to the public. The two days of festivities—a mini version of the Dark Mofo and Mona FOMA festivals that Mona hosts every year—feature performances by CW Stoneking, Ed Kuepper, and Kate Miller Heidke, alongside a slew of other musical acts.
If you’ve never made it to a Mona opening, this might be the one worth finally heading to. As Rawlins explains, On the Origin of Art has been in the works for years. In fact, Mona's founder David Walsh has been planning it out since the museum opened.
“It's the biggest show we’ve had as far as the time it's taken for us to prepare it,” he explains. “It's been years that we've been working on it—the number of loans we've collected, and the variety—from 800 000-year-old hand axes to new works that are being built right now.”
It’s also the first exhibition in a while that deliberately lives up to Mona’s title, by mixing ancient and contemporary artworks together in the same gallery space.
“And that's exciting,” Rawlins says. “This will be like the opening in 2011, where there was an amazing contrast between old and new, and people were super excited about that.”
Even for Mona, On the Origin of Art is unique in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s curated by four scientists—that’s Walsh flipping the bird at the art world, by the way—each of whom is attempting to answer the question of what drives humans to make art. Each scientist curator is responsible for a separate room in the exhibition, and their perspectives on the topic are totally different: each of the four rooms represents an oppositional intellectual space.
“We needed the four final scientists to have competing arguments—we couldn't have them taking the same position,” Rawlins explains.
Whatever argument you find most convincing, if you check it out this weekend, you’re in for a good time. Mona shows are predicated on surprises, and the museum is staffed by a dedicated team of organisers whose sole task is to work on its opening parties.
“A lot of the arguments in the exhibition are based around how humans have this biological imperative to make art because we want to attract a mate, or want to show off—a bit of peacocking,” Rawlins says.
“And that’s what the whole weekend is: David Walsh peacocking!”
On the Origin of Art opens this weekend, and entry to the show is totally free. You’ll want to make sure you book your ticket online, though—do that here.
Related: The Best Things We Saw at Mofo 2016
This Year's Dark Mofo Will Make You Feel Inconsequential in a Good Way Next Year's Mofo Lineup Is Here, Featuring Peaches, Mike Patton, and Synthesisers Made from Human Cells