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An Australian Art Museum Is Installing a Toilet to Keep Its ‘Ladies Lounge’ Off Limits to Men


Kirsha Kaechele, an American artist in Tasmania, seeks to challenge a tribunal ruling that orders her women-only art exhibition in the Museum of Old and New Art to allow the entry of men.

An Australian modern art museum featured a lavish, green velvet-ordained room—for women’s use only—to make a statement about discrimination. Then it got accused of being discriminatory.

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After a male ticket-payer last year complained of being denied entry to the Ladies Lounge, which opened in 2020, a local tribunal last month ordered the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania to make the space accessible to all.

But the exhibit artist and curator, Kirsha Kaechele, who is married to MONA’s founder and owner, has vowed to fight the order, which she calls the “verdick,” saying she plans to challenge the ruling before the state supreme court and, in the interim, pursue a workaround to ensure the Ladies Lounge remains off limits for men—except for male butlers who serve guests refreshments.

“Men need to be discriminated against,” Kaechele said in a post on Instagram on Tuesday, adding that she believes, with a few tweaks, the Ladies Lounge could qualify for various exemptions to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act. “The Ladies Lounge will become a toilet, a church and a school,” she told local newspaper the Mercury.

The Ladies Lounge in the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

One loophole Kaechele says she’s planning to exploit is installing a toilet in the gallery, which holds some of the museum’s most high-profile artworks, including a Picasso. “It would be the Ladies Room, in fact, under this new designation,” Kaechele said in a blog post this week on the museum’s website. She explained that the toilet could be, while technically functional, a piece of art, such as Fontaine by Marcel Duchamp, a urinal that she says she’s in talks to potentially borrow from the Centre Pompidou.

“Bringing this iconic art object from Paris for display in the Ladies Lounge would reignite the debate: what is art? The inevitable controversy would serve as an excellent art history lesson for a new generation, introducing one of the most important moments in twentieth-century culture—the origins of conceptual art—to a wider, non-art audience. In this sense, the Ladies Lounge would effectively become an educational institution,” Kaechele explains, adding that doing so would then satisfy another exemption.

(Kaechele told the Mercury on Tuesday that a toilet is on the way, to be installed within 45 days, but MONA tells TIME that it is not Fontaine. While the Ladies Lounge was closed this week until further notice, Kaechele told the Mercury that its key artworks will be temporarily moved to the women’s restroom to ensure uninterrupted viewing.)

Lastly, Kaechele says she could transform the Ladies Lounge into a religious institution, to satisfy another exemption. “The Lounge would be a safe space for women to come together and learn about the Bible and ask questions,” she said in the blog post, noting that she’s not Christian and likes to “poke fun” at Christianity.

Overall, Kaechele insists the legal challenge has only enhanced the exhibit, which was meant to evoke “in men the lived experience of women forbidden from entering certain spaces throughout history,” the museum said in a press release on Tuesday.

“Thanks to the ruling, we have no choice but to open ourselves to a whole range of enriching experiences—spiritual, educational …” Kaechele said in MONA’s blog. “To discover fascinating new possibilities, and to become better.”

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