MONA appeals against ladies-only lounge discrimination ruling

Women supports of Tasmania's MONA in court

Source: ABC News

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art may turn its controversial “ladies only” art exhibition into a toilet to allow it to keep banning men.

It follows an April decision by Tasmania’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal that the Ladies Lounge exhibition was discriminatory.

After a complaint by Sydney man Jason Lau, who had been refused entry to the exhibit, the tribunal ruled MONA had 28 days to lift its ban on access by people who didn’t identify as ladies.

On Tuesday, artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele announced the gallery – which is owned by her husband David Walsh – had lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Tasmania.

“It’s worth exercising the argument, not only for the Ladies Lounge, but for the good of art and the law,” she said.

“We need to challenge the law to consider a broader reading of its definitions as they apply to art … as well as the right for conceptual art to make some people (men) uncomfortable.

“Ladies love the lounge – a space away from men – given what we have been through for the last several millennia, we need it.”

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Kaechele said the tribunal took too narrow a view in terms of women’s historical and ongoing societal disadvantage.

It did not recognise how the experience of the Ladies Lounge could promote equal opportunity, she said.

The curtained-off exhibition has been temporarily closed but Kaechele said she had “come to the conclusion that we can qualify for all of the exemptions … [under] the Anti-Discrimination Act” – with plans to reopen it as a “bathroom”, “church” or place of “education”.

Kaechele said she could see circumstances in which men would be allowed in the lounge.

“We might allow them in on Sunday – and this would be part of our engagement (with an exemption) … as a school,” she said.

“Perhaps women could bring their laundry in and every Sunday we could allow the men in for a few hours of instructions on folding and ironing.”

Kaechele thanked Lau for lodging the complaint, saying it took a “special person” with real bravery to pursue the action.

“He’s taken heat, but I think we should stop giving him a hard time,” she said.

“Without Mr Lau, the artwork would really be not notable.

“[We] need to move on to the horribleness of men in general, rather than a single man.”

Kaechele said she would temporarily move Picasso works from the lounge to the women’s toilets so they could be viewed without interruption.

The lounge housed some of the gallery’s most important works, including a Sidney Nolan, and ladies were served by male butlers.

-with AAP

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