David Walsh is one-of-a-kind. A multi-millionaire who made his wealth gambling, he has invested that wealth in his passion for art – and transformed the fortunes of his home state in the process.
His Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is a weird and wonderful museum that has massively boosted visitor numbers to Tasmania – in what’s being described as ‘the MONA effect’. Lonely Planet listed Hobart as one of the world’s top ten cities to visit in 2013, largely because of MONA.
Walsh, an avid collector, wanted to subvert the notion of what an art museum is – and democratise the experience. So: you enter the museum via a tennis court, and its exhibits have included a wall of vulvas, an Olympic pool-sized Sidney Nolan painting, an Egyptian mummy, and works by Jenny Saville, Damien Hirst and Mat Collishaw.
He says it’s about ‘people fucking, people dying, the sorts of things that are the most fun to talk about.’ Richard Flanagan calls it ‘both a return to older ideas of enchantment and a vanguard of something new’.
Now, Walsh – an avid reader as well as an aficionado of numbers – has fulfilled his childhood dream of writing a memoir. A Bone of Fact is as utterly unconventional and charismatically absorbing as Walsh himself; his style is influenced by Kurt Vonnegut.
He’ll talk about the creation of MONA – and his personal evolution, from a boy from working class Tasmania to a man whose life work has transformed the face of global art, now acclaimed by art critics, cultural commentators and enthusiastic visitors from around the world.
In conversation with Julian Morrow.
David Walsh is a mathematician, gambler and gallery owner from Hobart.
Julian Morrow is a co-founder of satirical media empire The Chaser and joke production company Giant Dwarf. His work in the field of public nuisance includes TV programs The Election Chaser, CNNNN, The Chaser’s War on Everything, The Hamster Wheel, The Unbelievable Truth and The Checkout.