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Picassos hung in toilet cubicle at Mona

Georgie Burgess, Picassos hung in toilet cubicle at Mona in response to adverse discrimination ruling, ABC News, 24 June 2024

Mona hangs Picassos in female toilet in response to court ruling. (Instagram: kirshakaechele). Click here to view video.
  • In short: Tasmanian art gallery Mona has hung artworks by Pablo Picasso in a female toilet cubicle in response to a failed court bid to exclude men from a women-only art installation.
  • In April, a court ruling found Mona discriminated when it refused a New South Wales man entry to its Ladies Lounge.
  • What’s next? Mona curator Kirsha Kaechele is appealing the discrimination ruling in the Supreme Court.

 

A Tasmanian museum and art gallery has hung multiple artworks by Pablo Picasso in a toilet to overcome a discrimination complaint by a man who couldn’t access the venue’s Ladies Lounge where the works were previously on display.

Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) was found to have discriminated when it refused to let a New South Wales’ man entry into its women-only Ladies Lounge in April last year.

Jason Lau made a complaint to the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TASCAT) after he was refused entry to the lounge despite paying the museum entry fee.

In April, the museum was given 28 days by TASCAT to stop refusing entry to people who don’t identify as women to the lounge.

Picasso artwork hanging in Mona gallery female toilet(Instagram: kirshakaechele).

Loophole included toilet, church or school

Curator Kirsha Kaechele, who created the Ladies Lounge, had said she would consider using a loophole of turning the lounge into a toilet to enable it to live on despite the ruling.

She is also appealing the decision to Tasmania’s Supreme Court on the grounds that “TASCAT took too narrow a view in terms of women’s historical and ongoing societal disadvantage and did not recognise how the experience of the Ladies Lounge can promote equal opportunity.”

Ruling on women-only space raises many questions

Kaechele took to social media platform Instagram on Monday to announce a “new exhibition at Mona just for ladies”.

“We never had female toilets at Mona before, they were all unisex,” she said.

“But then the Ladies Lounge had to close thanks to a lawsuit brought on by a man and I just didn’t know what to do with all those Picassos.”

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), a Spanish painter, sculptor and designer, is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is credited as co-founding the Cubist movement.

The Picassos are hanging in a toilet cubicle.(Instagram: kirshakaechele).

Kaechele said Mona would “get the lounge open again soon” by using section 26 of the state’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which sets out circumstances when someone may discriminate against another person.

She used examples such as turning the lounge into a church or school.

“But in the meantime, enjoy [ladies]”.

Kaechele has described the Ladies Lounge as “a lavish ladies-only gallery space featuring artworks from the Mona collection alongside important modernist works and invaluable antiquities”.

“The artwork evokes in men the lived experience of women forbidden from entering certain spaces throughout history.”

Kirsha Kaechele and husband, Mona founder David Walsh.(MONA: Jonathan Wherrett).

Space was ‘lived experience’ of female discrimination

TASCAT deputy president Richard Grueber found the complaint by Mr Lau was substantiated because he was excluded entry to a section of the museum for being male.

“He had paid the full entry price for Mona, but was not able to experience the artwork contained within the Ladies Lounge,” Mr Grueber said in his decision.

“The refusal to permit Mr Lau entry to the Ladies Lounge was direct discrimination,” Mr Grueber said.

Mr Grueber said the case “involves conflict between an artwork which deliberately and overtly discriminates for artistic purpose and legislation which has the objective of prohibiting discrimination”.

At the hearing Kaechele said the Ladies Lounge was a response to historical disadvantage experienced by women in respect to entering spaces reserved for men.

“Ms Kaechele described the Ladies Lounge as a response to the lived experience of women forbidden from entering certain spaces throughout history,” Mr Grueber said.

The ABC report on the discrimination action being lodged against MONA. View video here.

MONA appeal ‘for the good of art’ 

During the hearing Kaechele was accompanied by a group of about 20 supporters who dressed in navy suits.

In his decision, Mr Grueber said while he did not observe it himself, the supporters all sat very still before shifting their position in a unison and coordinated manner.

The group were reportedly reading feminist texts, and slowly marched out of the tribunal to the tune of Robert Palmer’s song Simply Irresistible.

He said while it didn’t disrupt or influence the hearing and was not seen by Mr Lau, “at the very least it was inappropriate, discourteous and disrespectful, and at worst contumelious and contemptuous”.

Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart’s north is a popular tourist destination.(Supplied: Mona/Jesse Hunniford).

When announcing she would appeal the decision, Kaechele said she would exercise the argument not only for the Ladies Lounge “but for the good of art and the law”.

“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,” she said in May.

“Ladies love the Lounge — a space away from men — and given what we have been through for the last several millennia, we need it. We deserve both equal rights and reparations, in the form of unequal rights, or chivalry — for at least 300 years.”