‘On The Origin of Art’ will be curated by four scientists, putting the scientific process of the creative impulse under the microscope.

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is set to host a new exhibition later this year, titled On The Origin of Art, which will expose the many links between art and science, method and creativity.

“You don’t need art theory and the cultural elite to tell you what to think about a painting,” Mona’s founder David Walsh OA said in an interview with Artshub. “We want you to look at art without a cultural filter.” ‘On The Origin of Art’ will go back to Mona’s origins and even Walsh’s childhood by exploring the correlation between Darwinian evolution and the themes of sex and death.

The new exhibition will be Mona’s latest drawcard after its popular summer musical festival Mofo drew more than 40,000 excited patrons to the museum’s spacious grounds earlier this year. Since the museum’s opening in 2011, Walsh has carefully organised and curated the museum’s innovative and challenging exhibitions, including the gallery’s present exhibition by British Queer art icons, Gilbert & George. In November of this year, he will hand over to the reins to four “cutting edge” scientists to craft a new series of interlinking exhibitions exploring the scientific foundations of creative impulse. “Curators, typically, weave a cultural web. But the web of art, like the web of life, has evolution at its genesis,” Walsh explained. “Let’s see if those who have insights into evolution can tease out something about the nature of art.” 

Linguist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, evolutionary neurobiologist Mark Changizi, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller and professor of literature and evolution Brian Boyd will use the artwork presently owned by, or on loan to, the museum as inspiration for their curatorial journeys. They’ll be given access to works from galleries on local, state and national levels, public and private collections, and will also commission several new works. Their curatorial choices will reflect the emotional and evolutionary progressions of art as a creative expression. Ultimately, they’ll be posing the questions: what is art, and why do we make it? 

“I’m not trying to show that art is this or that thing,” said Walsh. “And I’m not trying to show that we make art for this or that reason. For the moment, I’m just trying to show that art is a complex thing and its characteristics multifarious.”

Early this year Mona’s two sister festivals – Mofo and Dark Mofo – were named joint winners of the Sidney Myer Performing Arts’ Group Award, with each receiving a $45,000 prize. Dark Mofo 2016 is set to take on the international arts scene from June 10-21, with plans for a P&O cruise vessel to visit Tasmania to coincide with the popular City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast.

On The Origin of Art opens on 5 November 2016 and will run to 17 April 2017.