Violent Femme, Brian Ritchie, curates MONA FOMA
We were recently in Tasmania, that
one-time convict isle at the end of the earth that changed its name from Van
Diemen’s Land in 1852 in an attempt to whitewash away the stain of its dark
Today, Tasmania is home to probably the
hippest museum in the world, built on the winnings of one of the world’s top
gamblers, a working class lad from Hobart called Dave Walsh. (Hobart, Tasmania,
incidentally, was also the birthplace of that infamous Hollywood bad boy of the 1930s and 40s, the
Australian actor and coke-on-the-end-of-the-penis fiend, Errol Flynn.)
The museum is named Mona, not a salute
to the 1957 Bo Diddley classic, covered by the early Rolling Stones, but an
acronym for Museum of Old and New Art. It is nearly twice the size of the
Guggenheim museum in New York, costs $12 million a year to run and makes only $4
million annually in return, the balance being made up by the gambler Walsh.
Mona initially received international
publicity in 2008 when it appointed the bass player of the Milwaukie
alternative rock band Violent Femmes, Brian Ritchie, as curator of its annual
music festival, MONA FOMA. Ritchie has since had a succession of top acts
including John Cale, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Phillip Glass, Grandmaster
Flash, PJ Harvey and David Byrne headlining the Mona festivals.
When we were there, Elvis Costello and
the Imposters were performing. Sadly, though, Elvis wasn’t featuring his popular
spinning wheel which selects, at random, each song to be played next. That, apparently
is the show to see.
International visitors flock to the Mona
museum in their thousands, making it Tasmania’s top tourist attraction. Because
of Mona, the Lonely Planet travel guide listed Hobart as one of world’s top ten
cities to visit in 2013.

Mona’s bizarre exhibits range from 151
sculptures of women’s vaginas to the remains of a suicide bomber cast in
chocolate. It prides itself in stretching the limits of taste. If ever you’re over in that neck of the woods, Mona is well worth a

In the UK, get your FREE How
Blues Evolved preview on link below.

In the USA, get your free
previews on this link.