An open letter to David Walsh from the MONA in Hobart

Dear David

I trust this finds you well and that business is blooming at the Mona.

Your name first crossed my path in 2011 when a very well read and art mad friend of mine talked about an article he read on you and your wonderful creation - the Museum of Old and New Art in Berriadale, Hobart. I was interested!

A few months later, another friend brought over an amazing shiraz from your Moorilla Winery. The wine was delicious and the label had us talking for hours. It was inspired. My husband was interested!

I googled you, I googled the Mona, I googled the Pavillions. I booked Christmas 2011 in Tassie, with the highlight being a 2 night stay in the Brett Whitely at the Mona Pavillions. Our dear friend who first mention you to us decided to come with. He booked the Sydney Nolan.

I was worried about taking our three children, who were 9, 8 and 5 at the time. I asked if it would be okay. Your staff kindly said that you love having kids stay at the Pavillions. It gives the place a family feel: makes the Mona accessable to everyone. She said that the kids would be captivated. I was relieved but prepared them nonetheless with expectations of excellent behaviour.

We arrived on a Friday, exhausted from having just packed up our life in Melbourne, to head home to Sydney. The sky was blue, the pink bean bags spread across the lawn beckoned, the spit roast was roasting perfectly and the Mona sat before us waiting to reveal it's riches.

We were all so excited.

The Brett Whitely room was amazing. The art, the books from your own library - you are a very good sharer.  Your ragdoll cat even paid us a visit. We too have a ragdoll, so he knew we spoke his language. He liked us, we liked him. He made himself right at home and told us about his life at the Mona. Bliss, he said. He mentioned his big canine brother but we didn't get to meet him. Shame!

And then to the Mona.

Four months post visit and I still don't know how to express how I feel. So, I'll just write it as it comes to me. I actually can't get the Mona out of my mind. I'm no art expert, just an art lover. I know very little about the why's and wherefores of art and to me they don't actually matter. What does matter is that people have taken the time to ensure that the art exists at all. They've taken the time to create something out of nothing. They have been brave. I love brave.

I love that you have mixed the classics with the contemporary. But mostly, I love that you have selected pieces to really challenge the status quo: to get us all thinking outside of the damn box. I love that the collection also provides countless emotional and intellectual challenges to the observer. It takes you to that prudish and judgmental part in all of us and makes you think again.

I love that in your book on the Mona, you mention that you have chosen works that you too find challenging: that they are part of the collection because you are simply trying to understand them yourself.

I love that my children were absolutely captivated by the Mona. They have never been so well behaved in such a quiet public space. They ate it up. We spent hours going through the Museum and their only collective complaint was that they could not see the "naughty bits". Please thank your staff for being diligent in warning us parents as to where those "bits" are located.

David, thank you for the Mona. You have been generous to the Australian public and I sincerely hope you feel proud of what you have achieved. You have been very brave.

You really are a terrific sharer.

Whenever you are in Sydney, feel free to pop in for a visit. Make sure you bring that shiraz with you.

Yours faithfully


Jacqueline Fink

ps. I'm sorry I have been unable to credit the artists of the works shown above. The "O" device proved a little tricky for me so I gave up on the commentary.