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The Thunder Down Under

February 26, 2015

For 14 years, a very strange (and stinky) museum in Tasmania has been freaking out visitors and locals.

Museum of Old and New ArtThe first thing you’ll notice at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart is the smell of poop. That’s because the underground museum is the current home of Belgian artist Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca. The totally bizarre contraption/art piece mimics the human digestive system. Its system of tubes and bags creates imitation doodie that smells just like the real deal. For obvious reasons Cloaca is housed in a custom-built room in one of MONA’s lower levels. Nevertheless, that isn’t enough to keep the smell it cranks out from drifting far beyond its gallery.

The museum is owned by eccentric Hobart native David Walsh, who has made a killing as a professional gambler. When he’s not betting on horse racing and other sports, he likes to collect and display art. Those willing to shell out $75,00 can also enjoy “Eternity Membership.” One of the benefits? Having your ashes put on permanent display after you kick the bucket. To date, only two of Walsh’s dearly departed family members have signed up. Still-living Tasmanian residents, meanwhile, can visit the museum for free.

Still, lots of locals can’t stand the bizarre museum, which is “devoted to sex and death,” but it has helped boost tourism in Tasmania. Say what you will about Walsh but he’s definitely committed to the project. Over the years, he’s sunk around $200 million into MONA. While that might sound totally crazy, over 330,000 people passed through the museum’s turnstiles in 2014.

Plus, MONA serves as a safe haven for truly freaky artists and artwork (like Cloaca) that might not find a home anywhere else. The museum’s annual summer festival attracts performance artists like Li Binyuan, who once hosted a “piece” that involved him smashing 250 hammers with another hammer.

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