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Women-only exhibit sued by man — artist fires back in the best way in court

Artist Kirsh Kaechele and her supporters at the court house
A man is suing Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) after he was denied entry to a women-only exhibit.

No boys allowed!

A pricey exhibit meant for women visitors only — titled “Ladies Lounge” and created by artist Kirsha Kaechele — has led to a formal complaint against Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) after a man was reportedly denied entry to the show.

But Kaechele made an appropriate — and memorable — visual statement during a court appearance.

The $500-a-pop “high tea” experience lets women patrons be waited on by male butlers, admire some of the museum’s most acclaimed works, sip 400-year-old wines and savor “preposterous morsels” prepared by the museum’s executive chef, Vince Trim, all in a “tremendously lavish space.”

The exhibit was inspired by Kaechele’s “scandalous socialite” great-grandmother who hosted lavish ladies-only parties.

Jason Lau, a visitor from New South Wales, was shocked when he learned the validity of the “Ladies Lounge” name upon arrival and was denied entry — despite having paid for a ticket.

The “Ladies Lounge” exhibit at the Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) was created by artist Kirsha Kaechele, who’s married to the museum’s owner. Jesse Hunniford / MONA
The “Ladies Lounge” exhibit at the Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) was created by artist Kirsha Kaechele, who’s married to the museum’s owner. Jesse Hunniford / MONA

He raised his complaint to the local anti-discrimination commissioner, and it eventually made its way to a court hearing at the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Tuesday.

Kaechele, who is married to museum owner David Walsh, arrived at the courthouse supported by a group of about two dozen women dressed in similar navy blue, business casual outfits and bright red lipstick.

The group put on a less-than-subtle performance, sitting in complete stillness, crossing their legs and resting their heads on their fists, clutching their hearts or peering down their spectacles as a choreographed routine throughout the hearing, according to the BBC.

“The ladies’ lounge serves as a sanctuary for women, addressing the historical exclusion and imbalance in artistic representation,” Kaechele said during her testimony, according to Australia’s The Mercury.

Lau, meanwhile, countered via video: “Any layperson would expect that if you buy a ticket, you would expect the provision of goods and services in line with the law,” the local outlet reported.

Jason Lau, a visitor from New South Wales, was shocked when he was denied entry to the exclusive exhibit despite having paid for a museum ticket and raised his complaint to the local Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The artist and supporters showed up for court in synchronized fashion (above). Charlotte Vignau / MONA
Jason Lau, a visitor from New South Wales, was shocked when he was denied entry to the exclusive exhibit despite having paid for a museum ticket and raised his complaint to the local Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The artist and supporters showed up for court in synchronized fashion (above). Charlotte Vignau / MONA

He insisted the exhibit should be removed, allow men or charge men a different price.

But the museum’s lawyer, Catherine Scott, insisted the exhibit is protected by Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act, which allows for programs promoting equal opportunity for disadvantaged groups.

She went on to argue the many ways women have been discriminated against throughout history — it was only in 1965 that Australian women won the right to drink in a public bar.

“Part of the experience is being denied something that is desired,” Scott argued.

“Part of the experience is being denied something that is desired,” the museum’s lawyer said. Charlotte Vignau / Mona
“Part of the experience is being denied something that is desired,” the museum’s lawyer said. Charlotte Vignau / Mona

The artist and her supporters sauntered out at the end of the hearing with a synchronized dance to Robert Palmer’s 1988 hit “Simply Irresistible.”

“We are so deeply embedded in the dominion of man that we do not even see the myriad ways in which we adhere to and multiply his reign. And for this reason, we need the Ladies Lounge: a peaceful space women can retreat to; a haven in which to think clearly and relish the pure company of women — to escape the invisible story woven through history,” said Kaechele told Art Net.

“The Ladies Lounge is a space exclusively for women, excepted only by a retinue of male butlers who live to serve women, attending to their every wish and showering them with praise and affection (in chivalry—the unequal rights component of any good reparations deal). The Ladies Lounge is an essential space for perspective and reset from this strange and disjointed world of male domination. There should be more of them.”

Deputy President Grueber is expected to announce his decision on the case in the coming days.