These Picasso pieces are on display in a ladies’ restroom inside a museum. Here’s why

Damond Isiaka
4 Min Read


CNN
 — 

A museum in Australia has moved Picasso artworks to a women’s restroom, skirting a discrimination complaint by a male visitor who couldn’t enter an exhibit where the works were previously hung.

Two paintings and a drawing by Pablo Picasso were originally featured in American artist and museum curator Kirsha Kaechele’s “Ladies Lounge” installation at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) –  which opened in December 2020 – “to any and all ladies.”

The experiential artwork was billed by the museum as a “tremendously lavish space” where women can indulge in “decadent nibbles, fancy tipples, and other ladylike pleasures” served by a male butler while they peruse art in a green velvet-draped room.

But MONA was ordered to stop refusing entry to “persons who do not identify as ladies” after the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled in April that the show violated Australia’s 1998 Anti-Discrimination Act.

Kaechele told the tribunal that denying men entry to the mysterious room was indeed part of the art — giving them a taste of the discrimination and exclusion many women have experienced through history.

The Picasso pieces are now displayed in an upgraded restroom with a fully functional toilet dubbed “Ladies Room,” located within the art venue, Kaechele said in an e-mail.

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

The Picasso works were moved into a fully functioning restroom for women.
Kaechele (left) and her navy-clad entourage outside the tribunal earlier this year.

On Monday, Kaechele posted on Instagram a video and images of the relocated works in situ, and pointed out that the gendered restroom was also a first for the museum.

She encouraged “all ladies” to enjoy the new exhibition.

‘Ladies Lounge’ closed

“We never had female toilets at Mona before, they were all unisex. But then the Ladies Lounge had to close thanks to a lawsuit brought on by a man. And I just didn’t know what to do with all those Picassos…,” wrote Kaechele, who is also the wife of MONA’s owner, David Walsh.

Jason Lau, a visitor from New South Wales was barred from entering the “Ladies Lounge” exhibit on April 1 in 2023. Lau, who had paid the $35 AUD ($23 USD) entry fee, believed he experienced direct gender discrimination.

“He felt strongly enough about this to file a complaint with Equal Opportunities Tasmania,” read the tribunal’s notes.

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After the judgment, Kaechele said she would challenge the court’s decision in the state’s Supreme Court and offered several possibilities to revive the “Ladies Lounge” concept.

Among those ideas included finding loopholes under Section 27 of the Anti-Discrimination Act which lists exceptions on when discrimination against gender would be permitted. In the meantime the lounge closed so that it wouldn’t have to open to men.

Kaechele later discussed potential ways to reopen “Ladies Lounge” as a church, school, toilet and more in a Q&A that was published on the museum’s website.

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