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Hobart’s MONA to expand with James Turrell-designed hotel, casino also flagged

MONA new hotel

The owner of Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), David Walsh, has revealed plans to develop a luxury hotel and casino on the site as part of a AUD$75 million extension.

In a blog on his website, Walsh revealed a 160-room hotel, (HOtelMOna or HOMO) would be one of the centre pieces of the expansion alongside an exhibition starring American artist James Turrell, who will also design some of the rooms.

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“We are pretty advanced in designing a hotel for Mona, HOtelMOna, or HOMO,” Walsh said. “In fact, we have now mooted the plans for more than twenty hotels for the site, starting long before Mona opened, but we finally have something that we feel justified in building.

“I believe a hotel should make exactly the sort of statement that Mona avoided: it should shout where Mona whispered.

“The building will house a decent library (I think the Mona library isn’t a design triumph, and we have a great deal of rare books and autograph manuscripts that we have never displayed [Stop Press: last night I bought an early edition of The Origin Of Species autographed by Darwin]), function centre, restaurant, bar, a theatre, some retail, and a spa, as well as around 160 rooms.

“Some of the rooms will be designed by artists: Marina Abramovic and James Turrell have agreed to participate, as well as our own Brigita Ozolins,” he said.

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Walsh also said a casino, dubbed ‘Monaco’ was being planned for the site, however that could prove difficult with Federal Group having the exclusive casino and poker machine rights in the state until 2023.

“The casino is a different beast, or more precisely, a different flower,” Walsh said. “I’ve engaged a Mexican organic architect, Javier Senosiain, who seems to understand the sort of thing I want, despite neither of us understanding the other. Casinos are closed edifices of steel and gloss. That’s not what I want. I want an open garden.

“Our customer base could never be that of the standard casino world, but it is a big world, and we need very few customers. And when we don’t have customers, I’d like the casino to be worth a visit, just from an art and architecture point of view.

“Anyway, it might never be licenced, so it needs to function at a level beyond that of a cash palace.

“These early models don’t quite intersect with the present hotel, because they were designed for a slightly earlier iteration. The principle will remain, however,” he said.

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Walsh said the project would still proceed with or without that gaming licence.

“None of these projects are contingent on the casino going ahead (including the casino), but Monaco might make it a little easier to pay for all this.

“However, they are contingent on many other things, like planning and building approval,” he said.

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