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Dark Mofo cancels 2020 event amid coronavirus fears to ensure long-term survival | Art and design


Hobart’s mid-winter festival Dark Mofo, hosted by the Museum of Old and New Art and set for June, has been cancelled due to concerns about coronavirus.

The festival is the latest casualty of the outbreak, which has already claimed the major music, tech and film festival SXSW, which was set to open on 16 March in Austin, Texas; Coachella, which has been postponed until October; the Miami dance music festival Ultra, due to begin on 20 March; and Miami’s Winter music festival, set for 16 March.

Madonna has cancelled the final two dates of her Madame X world tour, on 10 and 11 March; Pearl Jam have postponed the first leg of their US tour; and, in Australia, Miley Cyrus has pulled out of a bushfire relief concert set for Friday in Melbourne, which has been cancelled as a result.

But with all these dates imminent, Dark Mofo’s cancellation – “after a thorough risk assessment” – is an outlier: the festival was due to begin in three months’ time, on 10 June.

“The financial exposure faced by [Mona’s owner] David Walsh of a festival-wide last-minute cancellation would run into the millions, and likely end the event permanently,” Dark Mofo’s creative director, Leigh Carmichael, said on Wednesday. “We’ve had to act decisively to ensure Dark Mofo’s long-term survival.”

In a typically idiosyncratic statement, Walsh said on Facebook the decision “will murder an already massacred tourism in Hobart” but “I feel like I have no choice (hint: that means I have a choice”.

The early decision largely came down to “fear compelled by uncertainty”, he said. His wife, the artist Kirsha Kaechele, was having trouble selling tickets to an April fundraiser; Walsh’s gambling-related income had already been jeopardised (“horseracing is being cancelled in COVID-19-affected countries. Soon, that might be all of them”); and he was concerned “we would have trouble selling tickets to Dark Mofo events also”.

“Right now, the government and Mona are each on the hook for $2 million to run Dark Mofo,” Walsh continued. “That’s bad. What’s worse, as far as I’m concerned, is that if we ran Dark and nobody came, I’d lose $5 million or more … That kind of blowout would affect Mona’s program, and I’d be back to subsisting on the diet I had when I was eighteen – pineapples and mint slice biscuits.”

Bon Iver’s sold-out performances – the only part of the 2020 program that had been announced – are still going ahead on 12 and 13 June, “subject to further government advice”. The rest of the 2020 program will be pushed to next year.

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