Mona is gambling on spring opening
Mona’s David Walsh is personally underwriting his closed art gallery for another six months, but its longer-term future is uncertain as he suffers a hit to his gambling earnings and places a hotel development on hold.
Mark Wilsdon, co-chief executive of the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, told The Weekend Australian that while they hoped for a spring reopening, the world-renowned museum, gallery, food and alcohol business faced the same existential threat as others, should the lockdown go much longer.
“That (permanent closure) is the pipeline we’re looking down at the moment, for a lot of us,” Mr Wilsdon said. “The JobKeeper payments and stimulus has been well received … and state government moved quickly (with) some good initiatives. But ultimately it’s the market that needs to look after itself from a tourism perspective.”
If Mona was unable to open by summer, drastic action to reduce costs or raise capital would be “things on the horizon that we need to be aware of”, he said.
Mr Walsh, whose fortune was built on gambling using computerised mathematical systems, was underwriting hibernation costs for “six to nine months” from its closure on March 18. The gifted mathematician, whose business injects a vital $135m into the Tasmanian economy each year, was providing support to 40 foreign visa holders on Mona’s staff from his own pocket, at least until June 30.
However, Mr Wilsdon revealed Mr Walsh’s gambling income had been “squeezed” by COVID-19. “That’s as unknown as everything else as to when that recovers and what quantum that gets back to,” he said. “Horses aren’t running at every track around the world and the scale of the (gambling) pool is diminished … So their (Walsh’s gambling syndicate’s) activities have also been fairly significantly impacted.”
His team was “preparing scenarios” to “support a quick pivot to whatever reopening is”. This could mean initially opening to Tasmanians only, or staggering numbers in sections of the complex.
Construction of a $400m hotel at Mona had been due to begin next March, but was now on hold. And this winter’s Mona-linked Dark Mofo festival has been cancelled. Mr Wilsdon said planning for the January Mofo was under way but it was unlikely to include overseas artists.
Nothing in there about kickbacks