Why Has This Tasmanian Museum Hung Picassos in Its Bathroom?

Artist Kirsha Kaechele has "relocated the Picassos" after a court deemed her "Ladies Lounge" installation discriminatory.

Inside the Ladies Room in MONA. Photo: Mona/Eden Meure, courtesy the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

The Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania has installed three Picassos in one of its bathrooms, in a sly response to a court ruling that deemed its women-only installation discriminatory. 

Artist Kirsha Kaechele’s Ladies Lounge was launched in 2020, offering women a lavish space to sip high tea or champagne while surrounded by choice artworks including Sidney Nolans and Picassos. The lounge was Kaechele’s arch critique of the historical exclusion of women from certain spaces (its title nods to the one-time areas in Australian pubs where women were kept from the males-only public bar), offering men the same experience by barring them from entry.

A man, however, took issue. In March, Jason Lau filed a complaint with Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner after being turned away from Ladies Lounge. The Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal later ruled that the installation had to admit men to avoid “direct discrimination.” MONA was given 28 days to “reform” the installation.

A woman sits outside Tasmania's Supreme Court building, throwing papers in the air

Artist-curator Kirsha Kaechele outside the Supreme Court of Tasmania. Photo: Museum of Old and New Art/Jesse Hunniford. Courtesy Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

Kaechele has declared her intention to appeal the case to Tasmania’s Supreme Court: “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.”

In the meantime, in a typically playful interview in May, she chewed over ideas for how her artwork might be “reformed.” Among them are transforming the Lounge into a church or a bathroom, options that take advantage of exemptions in the country’s anti-discrimination statute.

Now, in what seems like a proof of concept, Kaechele has revamped one of MONA’s unisex bathrooms—renaming it Ladies’ Room and hanging it with three Picasso works that were previously installed in the Ladies Lounge.

A sign with gold letters that read "Ladies Room"

Ladies Room at MONA. Photo: Mona/Eden Meure, courtesy the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

“While the Ladies Lounge undergoes a series of reforms to meet the exemptions required for reopening, I’ve been doing a little redecorating,” she said in a statement. “I thought a few of the bathrooms in the museum could do with an update… some Cubism in the cubicles.”

“So,” she added. “I’ve relocated the Picassos.”

Inside that cubicle is a variation of Luncheon on the Grass, After Manet (1961) hung beside a toilet, and another of Woman Lying on Sofa (1961) above the sink. In between the paintings is a framed drawing. According to MONA, the works will remain in the bathroom indefinitely. 

A Picasso painting hung next to a toilet

Inside the Ladies Room in MONA. Photo: Mona/Eden Meure, courtesy the Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

Meanwhile, the Lounge itself remains shut, with a sign that reads “Closed for Reform.” But as Kaechele indicated in an Instagram post, it’s due for quite a rebirth.

“We’ll get the Lounge open again as a church / school / boutique glamping accommodation / facilities / etc under Section 26 of the Anti-Discrimination Act,” she wrote, adding of the Ladies Room, “but in the meantime, enjoy! (ladies) (that applies to ALL ladies, you know when you are and when you are you’re welcome.)” 

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