MONA Founder Gets French Award

Six months after being named an Officer of the Order of Australia, Tasmanian-based arts entrepreneur, philanthropist and MONA museum and festival founder David Walsh was recognised in Europe.

Photo: MONA/Rémi Chauvin

He was knighted by the French for his contribution to the arts. He got the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres – putting him in equal rank with T.S. Eliot, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jim Jarmusch, David Stratton, Robert Paxton, Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman. In responding to the honor, Walsh took on the persona of his 1-year-old daughter Sunday in a Facebook post.

“She” acknowledging her father had a dilemma in feeling happy and proud of the award “while there is suffering in the world. Pride can burn through all that is worthy. Stop giving Daddy prizes, or he might turn into a right royal prick.

I need Daddy to be nice to me for a few more years.” During his college days, Walsh’s rare gift for mathematics saw him become one of Australia’s most successful gamblers, He claims to win A$8 million (US$6.13 million) ) a year as part of the 12-person global gambling syndicate Bank Roll. All of it goes to his world-famous Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart, which, after its 2011 opening, drew 1.25 million patrons in four years and contributes more than A$100 million ($76.6 million) a year to the Tasmanian economy.

Walsh’s creed that art should be confrontational and radical also saw him expand that thinking to two arts and music festivals. The avant-garde MONA FOMA, curated by Tasmanian resident and Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie, draws more than 40,000 and injects A$46 million ($35.2 million) to the Tasmanian economy. Its 3-year-old mid-winter sister, Dark Mofo, is the state’s biggest event, drawing 280,000 in 2016. The Tasmanian Government this year struck a five-year partnership for the latter festival, promising a A$2.1 million ($1.6 million) contribution a year until 2021.