Tasmania’s “Adult Disneyland” of a Museum Lures Visitors With Erotic Art

This is the story of an eccentric multi-millionaire, erotic art, Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the bassist of the Violent Femmes. Oh, and the country’s efforts to increase its population, too.


Tasmania is looking to boost its immigrant population and is putting itself on the map for avant-garde art in its latest efforts to lure travelers and settlers alike. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) opens this week and aims to be Australia’s first “subversive adult Disneyland,” complete with erotic art installations, intersecting with themes of life and death.

The museum will showcase the collection of resident multi-millionaire David Walsh in a three-story building designed by architect Nonda Katsalidis and is Australia’s largest private museum open to the public. The collection is appraised at $100 million and includes work from artists Damien Hirst and Jean-Michel Basquiat, among dozens of others.

“MONA is an unmuseum, a counterpoint to museums,” curator Mark Fraser tells Fast Company. “MONA represents David Walsh’s curiosity and eagerness to question the world; we avoid any attempt at objectivity and eschew the White Cube construct. We are non-didactic–a subversive adult Disneyland. [Walsh’s] interest is to stimulate conversation and debate; to act as a temple to rationalism. It was not built here to meet parochial needs.” Fraser was recruited from his executive post at Sotheby’s to curate MONA.

Last year we hinted at a certain bassist-turned tea purveyor also residing in Tasmania who would soon help launch a museum–that man is Violent Femmes-bassist Brian Ritchie, who is helping to launch the museum with one of the region’s largest music festivals, happening this week in the lead-up to the opening of MONA. Indeed, Ritchie’s Festival of Music and Art (FOMA) has already attracted over 60,000 people and the festival is only half over.

Of the museum, says Ritchie, “MONA will put Tasmania on the art map as a world class museum both in terms of size and content. We are already being inundated with requests from top artists all over the world to be included.”


The Australian state has leaned particularly hard on its more open-minded policies to attract new residents, such as recognizing gay marriage.

And erotic art never hurt a country’s efforts to lure new residents, either. But the collection is more the result of the tastes of collector David Walsh who is known for being somewhat eccentric, drawing on the sciences, mathematics, gambling, art, death, and wine to inform not only his own entrepreneurial ventures, but the halls of his new museum as well.

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About the author

Jenara is an overseas reporter for Fast Company and a freelance writer/producer in Asia, regularly on CNNGo, and a graduate of Harvard and UC Berkeley.