“We need art. But for what? David Walsh asked some of his scientist buddies this question. Four answers. Four exhibitions. One man’s crusade to piss off art academics.”
So goes the slogan of the Museum of Old and New Art’s (MONA) new exhibition, On the Origin of Art. Boasting a broad selection of artworks spanning many styles and eras, the exhibition is divided into four chapters, each the brainchild of one of four scientists with backgrounds in psychology, linguistics, and neurobiology. The exhibition opened early November last year and will run until the coming 17th of April.
On the Origin of Art is a fundamental shift from the existing body of work MONA has, while retaining the core philosophy of MONA’s themes of sex and death. The exhibition examines the history of art from all corners of the world through a strictly biological lense, instead of a cultural one. It interprets art as a way to attract mates and as a form of communication, giving a new perspective to artworks traditionally interpreted through the cultures we live in. It boasts an impressive amalgamation of artists and features works created by Auguste Renoir, John Glover, and Art Spiegelman.
The entire exhibition takes about one to three hours to explore in entirety, neatly segmented into four separate sections for each of the four curators. Although some of the works feature adult content, those areas are contained to specific rooms and there are plenty of fun artwork throughout that children will enjoy. Simply put, the exhibition feels much larger than it is, displaying a masterful use of light to focus attention and set the tone, giving personality to works and curating both an emotional and intellectual experience. Visitors pass through a kaleidoscope of different eras, colours and styles, and it’s exciting. It feels a bit like an adventure.
MONA itself has fundamental roots in a scientific analysis of art, unabashedly promoting itself as a fine purveyor of cultural artifacts related to sex and death. On the Origin of Art is the latest chapter. It features a broad variety of artworks and artifacts, from ancient hand-axes to modern figurines, to comic books and interactive digital works. If you like any art whatsoever, there’s something here for you. If not, you can go outside for a while.