Australian museum condemned for male discrimination

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart (Tasmania) has been condemned for discrimination. The court ruled on Tuesday April 9 that the Australian museum must allow men access to its Ladies Lounge art installation within twenty-eight days. The immersive experience, strictly reserved for women, was designed by artist Kirsha Kaechele (born in 1976) as a space that reverses the practice of exclusion of women from certain places in history.

The legal action was brought against the museum by New South Wales resident Jason Lau after he was refused entry to the Ladies Lounge during his visit to MONA in April 2023. “Whoever buys a ticket expects a fair provision of goods and services” he then said, emphasizing that the museum had not informed him beforehand that the ticket did not authorize him access to this space. According to him, this ban constitutes a violation of Tasmania's anti-discrimination law.

Kirsha Kaechele and MONA recognize the discriminatory dimension of the experience, but argue that this same law authorizes discrimination “if it promotes the opportunities of an otherwise disadvantaged group”. The American artist and curator, who is also the wife of the museum's owner, says Ladies Lounge brings justice to disenfranchised women. The work is designed as an inversion of the codes of old Australian pubs which, until 1965, were prohibited for women. “I think the ban on men is a very important part of the artwork” she explains. The installation, created in 2020, is a 45 m² private room hidden from the public by a curtain and monitored by a security guard. Women are welcomed with champagne and can admire some of the museum's most important works, including those by Pablo Picasso, Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) as well as Mesopotamian and African antiquities.

Richard Grueber, vice-president of the court, however considered that the work did not act in favor of equal opportunities, describing the museum's arguments as“inconsistent” and adding that“preventing men from discovering art in the Ladies Lounge space does not promote the possibility for women artists to exhibit their works”.

Kirsha Kaechele told the BBC last March that she would take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary. The museum announced that it would prefer to close the installation rather than open it to men, since that would be contrary to the very message of the work. After the hearing, a MONA spokesperson said the institution was taking time to “digest the result” And “consider your options”.

The Museum of Old and New Art is a private museum located on the island of Hobart in Tasmania. Dug into the hillside, it extends over three underground floors with 6,000 m² of exhibition space. It was founded in 2011 by billionaire David Walsh to house his unique collection of ancient and contemporary art. It has more than 2,000 works brought together around the themes of death, scatology and sex, including works by Anselm Kiefer, Wim Delvoye and Damien Hirst.

MONA in Hobart, Tasmania.

Similar Posts