I had the enormous pleasure of visiting Hobart and last week, with the primary objective of checking out MONA for the very first time. I know I’m way behind the eight ball on this (particularly as a finger-on-the-pulse designer type) but I must say, it well and truly lived up to the hype. Much has been said about the world-class cultural experience that MONA so lavishly provides – and it really is quite spectacular – however the design geek in me was perhaps even more blown away the near-flawless brand experience. The MONA essence comes through at every touch point, across every platform, and reflects the eccentricities of owner, David Walsh. The essence is, of course, really effing cool, but not so cool to be exclusive. This is not an esoteric art club; there is a definite feeling that MONA is an experience for all.
The experience starts on the journey to the museum, be it on the hot pink flame-clad bus or the impressive Mona Roma boat, decked out with a full bar, sheep seats, lifesize cow and the ‘posh as’ Posh Pit.
The ‘O’ (a free interactive guide that replaces labels on walls) categorises information into ‘art wank’, ‘jabberwocky’ and ‘tweedledum/dee’. It invites you like or hate the works you see, and saves your tour (complete with art wank), to be revisited via the website and shared through social media.
The building is an experience in itself, dramatically cut into the landscape with twisted stairs that carry you three levels below ground. Dark corridors, rooms inside rooms and pieces within various nooks and crannies create a real sense of discovering the artwork, a far cry from the gallery archetype of clean white walls.
Beyond the museum, the MONA umbrella includes the Moo Brew Brewery, Moorilla Winery, accommodation pavilions, Mofo and Dark Mofo festivals, The Source Restaurant, and (my personal favourite) the MONA Cemetery, where ‘lifetime membership’ takes on a whole new meaning.
For $AUD 75,000 you can enjoy all the benefits of Eternity Membership – parties, catalogues, annoying pamphlets, being sucked up to. Then – when you die, we have you cremated and put in a fancy jar in the museum. David’s dad’s there already. Don’t you miss out. PS. This is not a joke.
The cohesion across every level of the brand experience is truly impressive. As adults, we don’t often get to experience the excitement or escapism of stepping into another world, something that theme parks, tree houses and wild imaginations enable kids to do all the time. Walsh claims that he wanted to create a “subversive adult Disneyland”, which in my opinion is spot on.