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Australian Museum Devoted to Death Feels Like a 'Night Club'


Opened by a high-stakes gambler on a remote Australian island 150 miles from the mainland, the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, with its permanent collection of artworks focused on sex and death, seems, on paper, an unlikely winner of architecture awards. But a glance at its edifice explains it all: the private, 102,000-square-foot museum was built out of steel and concrete by Fender Katsalidis Architects with three subterranean levels and vast passageways cut from sandstone. The New Yorker described it last year as "designed like a Borgesian labyrinth, lit like a night club" and feeling like "a mashup of the lost city of Petra and a late night out in Berlin."

Founder David Walsh, who has described his museum as a "subversive adult Disneyland," actually lives in an apartment on the premises of MONA, with windows overlooking the largest modernist work ever created in Australia, Sidney Nolan's "Snake," a writhing serpent the size of a swimming pool. Other works include a waterfall whose droplets become words from the most-searched headlines of the day, and a room which, according to The New Yorker, is "flooded with water that's dyed black, which you cross on stepping stones to an island holding two large and identical cabinets, one containing an Egyptian sarcophagus, the other a digital animation of CAT scans."

More than 60,000 tons of earth were cleared to make way for these exhibition spaces (that also contain all manners of sex-themed art), which are entered either by a glass elevator or a descending spiral staircase. MONA just won a World Interiors News Award for best museum space, which commended its "bold geometry of waffle concrete and Corten steel" and "roof is accessible by both land and water," as well as its "raw materiality" and "unconventional but visually complex" throughways between gallery chambers. Unconventional is right. Photos, below:

· Museum of Old and New Art [Official site]
· Tasmanian Devil [New Yorker]
· World Interiors News Annual Awards 2014 Winners Announced [Official site]
· The 2014 World Interiors News Annual Awards Winners [Bustler]
· All Awards posts [Curbed National]
· All Globe Trotting posts [Curbed National]