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Mona challenge ruling allowing male entry to

Kelly Burke, Tasmania’s Mona to challenge decision to let men into ladies-only art lounge, The Guardian, 7 May 2024

Artist Kirsha Kaechele said they needed to fight for ‘the right to make some men uncomfortable’.

View image in fullscreen Artist Kirsha Kaechele performing outside the supreme court with props from her Ladies Lounge installation, following a court order to admit men to the lounge. Photograph: Jesse Hunniford.

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) will appeal an anti-discrimination decision that ordered the museum to allow men entry to its women-only Ladies Lounge.

Moorilla Estate Pty Ltdthe company owned by Mona founder and owner David Walsh, was ordered by Tasmania’s civil and administrative tribunal on 19 March to “cease refusing entry to the exhibit known as the Ladies Lounge at the Museum of Old and New Art by persons who do not identify as ladies”.

On Tuesday, the artist who created the Ladies Lounge, Kirsha Kaechele, announced that Mona would challenge the decision in Tasmania’s supreme court.

“I think it’s worth exercising the argument, not only for the Ladies Lounge, but for the good of art, and the law,” Kaechele said in a statement.

“We need to challenge the law to consider a broader reading of its definitions as they apply to art and the impact it has on the world, as well as the right for conceptual art to make some people (men) uncomfortable.”

The case made international headlines in March after Sydney man Jason Lau, who has kept a low public profile throughout the entire saga, lodged a complaint with the tribunal arguing his denial of admittance to the Ladies Lounge when he visited the museum on 1 April 2023 was gender discrimination.

Kirsha Kaechele’s Ladies Lounge, installed in the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania
Inside Kirsha Kaechele’s women-only Ladies Lounge at Mona in Hobart. Photograph: Jesse Hunniford.

The opulently furnished women-only space, in which people identifying as ladies are served champagne by male butlers, houses some of the museum’s most important works, including a Sidney Nolan, a Pablo Picasso and a trove of antiquities from Mesopotamia, Central America and Africa.

Kaechele fronted the tribunal with an entourage of 25 women, all dressed in navy business attire, who engaged in discreet synchronised choreographed movements throughout the daylong hearing.

Mona’s defence included the claim the Ladies Lounge did include men, because their feelings of exclusion were in fact part of the installation’s artistic effect.

When the proceedings concluded, the female troupe exited the tribunal to the Robert Palmer song Simply Irresistible.

Artist Kirsha Kaechele, creator of Ladies Lounge, exiting a hearing in the Tasmanian civil and administrative on 19 March. Photograph: Jesse Hunniford Mona/Charlotte Vignau.

Mona’s statement on Tuesday said the appeal has been lodged on the grounds that the tribunal took too narrow a view in terms of women’s historical and ongoing societal disadvantage.

The tribunal did not recognise how the experience of the Ladies Lounge could promote equal opportunity, the statement said, through its exploration of the lived experience of women forbidden from entering certain spaces throughout history.

“Given what [women] have been through for the last several millennia … we deserve both equal rights and reparations, in the form of unequal rights, or chivalry-for at least 300 years,” Kaechele said.

The tribunal gave Mona a 28 day operating period to cease refusing entry to men, which expired on Monday. The Ladies Lounge is now closed to the public.