Viking/Penguin 2014, 355 pp.
Adrian Franklin's The Making of MONA collects anecdotes and images about the making of the Museum of Old and New Art. It dismantles the dismissive view of David Walsh as an eccentric millionaire-genius and of MONA as a representation of his weird mind.
The early chapters situate Walsh as collector and MONA as a private museum in larger historical contexts. The phenomenon of collecting is considered through the frame of modern consumerist society, while the history of the Western museum and concepts of museology such as the Wunderkammer and the white cube are used to explain MONA’s ideology.
Franklin emphasises the importance of collaboration at MONA. This is represented through the many voices that tell the stories of MONA: from the architects and designers, to curators and collectors, marketing managers, reviewers and of course Walsh himself. The tale of the ridding of wall labels in MONA is one example of this collaborative process, responding to Walsh’s distaste for labels at his earlier Moorilla Museum of Antiquities, leading to the creation of the O device.
The book builds a reading of MONA through the carnival trope. While this is at times stretched, it does allow Franklin to undermine the view of MONA as self-indulgent contemporary consumerism and present it as a place of generosity, tolerance and inclusiveness, traits that are too often overlooked.
The book looks sleek and hip, recalling Monanisms, the MONA museum catalogue now in its second edition. The colour scheme of hot pink on black is straight from 'Brand MONA’, something Franklin discusses at length. Somewhat repetitive,, this is a good book to dip into rather than reading cover to cover, encouraged by the inclusion of many high-quality images ranging across the collection of MONA, its architecture, construction and other miscellanea.
Kelli Rowe is a writer, musician and PhD candidate at the University of Adelaide.