Is Art Tower, Tasmania’s Tallest Tourist Attraction, David Walsh’s Latest Folly?

The proposal is tied to David Walsh and his Museum for Old and New Art.

A mock-up of Art Tower in situ. Photo: via Detached
A mock-up of Art Tower in situ.
Photo: via Detached

Hobart, Tasmania’s Detached Cultural Organization has announced a proposal for the city’s tallest building—Art Tower, a 384-foot tall steel skyscraper dedicated to contemporary art and stair-climbing. Plans were presented to the public during the annual Dark Mofo festival of art, light and music.

The unusually named Detached Cultural Organization is a project dedicated to revitalizing the old Mercury newspaper building, a 5000-square-meter site in the city center. Called the “Detached Cultural Precinct,” the project will include gallery, project, and public program spaces dedicated to art, education, science, and health.

Art Tower is the proposed magnum opus of the project. Offering panoramic views of the city, it will hold a rotating roster of commissioned contemporary artworks. Through a partnership with the Menzies Research Institute, it will also track the heart rate of visitors as they climb the structure.

“The tower has been designed around the challenge and experience of climbing up and down its 1300 plus individual steps—650 ascending and 650 descending—making physical exertion part of the experience,” said project architect Robert Morris-Nunn.

The cultural precinct is modeled on the projects and antics of another Tasmanian vying to make the city the world’s hottest tourist attraction—David Walsh.

A model of the proposed Art Tower.<br>Photo: via Detached</br>

A model of the proposed Art Tower.
Photo: via Detached

Walsh, the Australian gambler-turned-millionaire-turned-founder of Hobart’s shrine to sex, death, and pissing off as many institutional forces as possible, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), critically endorsed the project with a contrarian editorial in the Mercury on Saturday, writing, “The tower idea is good. The developers seem to be well intentioned…The art might be mesmerising” (see Tasmanian Millionare Wants to Build a Casino in His Museum).

In his piece, Walsh fails to mention that the Dark Mofo festival, where the Art Tower was presented, is put on by MONA, and that Leigh Carmichael, head of Design, Communications, Events and Festivals at the museum, is director of the festival and project director of Detached.

It would come as no surprise if Walsh is, however obscurely, ultimately behind the project. MONA has triumphed Tasmanian tourism since its opening in 2011, and the eccentric founder seems all about the spectacle and prestige of creating a subversive site for cultural tourists in a city that previously had little draw for international visitors (see Gambling Millionaire David Walsh’s Kooky Tasmania Museum MONA Clocks 1 Million Visitors).

Hobart’s current building restrictions state that new buildings cannot exceed 138 feet, a rule that can be appealed if the proposal is deemed beneficial to the city. Art Tower nearly triples the height limit, so Detached has certainly got a fight to fight if it wants to make the project a reality.

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