Museum Sued Over Women-Only Exhibit

Artist Kirsha Kaechele, Australia's MONA museum argue this type of discrimination is fine
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2024 8:26 AM CDT

Women lounge on a phallus-shaped couch, sipping champagne delivered by male butlers. They're surrounded by curtains of silk and some of the museum's most coveted artworks from names like Pablo Picasso. Excepting the butlers, there are no men allowed. This interactive art exhibit which opened at the Museum of Old and New Art in Australia's Tasmania state in 2020 "takes the concept of an old Australian pub and turns it on its head," the BBC reports, "highlighting the exclusion [women] faced for decades." Until 1965, only men could drink in Australia's bars—so here, only women can drink and enjoy the company of their own sex. At least for now. One man could soon take it all away: Jason Lau of New South Wales, who's suing the museum for discrimination.

Lau says he bought a ticket for the museum last April expecting access to all exhibits. "I was quite surprised when I was told that I would not be able to see one exhibition, the Ladies Lounge," Lau, who is representing himself, said Tuesday at the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Hobart. Yes, the exhibit discriminates, the museum's counsel noted. Lau's exclusion is "part of the art itself," attorney Catherine Scott said, per the Washington Post. But the law allows for discrimination if "designed to promote equal opportunity for a group of people who are disadvantaged," Scott added, per the BBC. "I have taken something that was used to keep women down and I have repurposed it into a triumphant space for [them]," said Kirsha Kaechele, the American artist behind the exhibit.

Lau said the law was designed to allow "positive discrimination," not "negative discrimination." He argues the exhibit should be closed or forced to admit men. A decision is expected at a later date. If the court rules against Kaechele, she'll appeal to Tasmania's Supreme Court. "We won't let men in," she tells the Post. "That's not happening." The courtroom became a bit of an art show in itself. Kaechele was flanked by 25 women in navy business attire, pearls, and red lipstick, who stole the show with their subtle, synchronized movements. The Guardian remarks on the "gentle swish of 25 pairs of nylon clad legs crossing in unison." One member of the group took notes from feminist texts, per the BBC. After the hearing wrapped, the women were seen "dancing out of the building" to Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible." (More discrimination stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.