A subterranean museum hewn from a sandstone cliff on an Australian island, founded by a maverick gambling millionaire, sounds like a far-fetched art world fantasy. Fill the gallery with some of the most provocative and striking art works of the 21st century, from a faeces-making machine by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye to Stephen Shanabrook’s mutilated body of a suicide bomber sculpted in chocolate, along with Egyptian mummies and modernist Australian pieces, and the saga sounds even more implausible. But such a place exists: the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), which opened outside the Tasmanian capital of Hobart late last month, houses the collection of 49-year-old David Walsh, mathematician, vineyard owner and professional gambler. At 6,000 square metres, it is Australia’s largest private art gallery. Walsh is quite unlike your typical art collector. Raised in the Hobart suburb of Glenorchy, the algorithms virtuoso says he was a “misfit kid”, a typical computer nerd. But the geek cleaned up, dropping out of the University of Tasmania in the late 1970s to fine-tune gaming systems, hitting on a formula that meant blackjack croupiers dreaded dealing him a hand (mastering card techniques was “easy”, he says, but finding a way to win on the horses took him most of the early 1990s).
more from Gareth Harris at the FT here.