Morilla: "A Subversive Disneyland" with Wine, Art, Beer and Atheists
I was standing in the living room in "Esmond", one of Morilla's winery's four new guest pavilions, and the black carpet with the red block letters only caught my eye after I'd admired the contemporary art on the wall, had gotten myself oriented to the in room control panel (lights, TV, window shades, music) and had gone out onto the balcony to take in the panoramic view of Tasmania's Derwent River.
Of course, the idea of Morilla needing money is entirely preposterous. This hotel/winery/brewery/event space and oh yeah, soon-to-open museum called MONA that will be the largest private art collection in the Southern Hemisphere -- is owned by a guy with deep pockets, a Tasmanian named David Walsh.
A math whiz, Walsh made his money gambling -- two years ago, he proposed that a story about him in the Australian newspaper AGE start with "David Walsh is a rich wanker." Morilla is one place where he's been spending some of those riches since he bought it in 1995.
Often, when a rich person gets the idea to go into the hospitality business as a lark, you end up with places that are on the bizarre side of idiosyncratic. But Walsh has not skimped out on hiring experienced staff, so as he's added on to one of Tasmania's most venerable wineries, the result is a place that definitely showcases his personality -- for instance, there's no bible in guest rooms, but there is a copy of The God Delusion -- but also meets standards of a well-run luxury accommodation.
The art focus has been there since Walsh purchased the property, originally displaying his personal collection of antiquities. That museum closed in 2006 and the new museum -- MONA which stands for the Museum of Old and New Art -- will feature the other side of Walsh's collection, which is contemporary art. It's meant to be a "subversive Disneyland".
The whole thing is supposed to be a surprise -- no renderings are being released to the media -- , and already there are signs of it being an unusual experience: Although it is being built right on the river, it will have no windows, the rotating collection will have no labels, and it's hard to know what exactly is in store for the visiting public. Everyone will finds out when MONA opens its doors on 1/21/2011.
(My trip was sponsored by Tourism Australia and Tourism Tasmania, but my opinions, as always, are 100% my own.)