All-Women Show Considers Becoming a Bathroom to Exclude Male Visitors

In an effort to keep its women-only exhibition alive, Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is considering turning it into a toilet — or a bible study.

These alternatives are just two of six legal exemptions that would allow the private art museum to bar men from accessing the Ladies Lounge — an exhibition by artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele that deliberately excludes self-identifying male visitors from entry. Last month, the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (TASCAT) ruled that the participatory installation must admit all paying visitors going forward, after a male patron accused the museum of discriminatory practices. 

Now, the museum is seeking to challenge TASCAT’s order. On Monday, May 7, the institution submitted an appeal to Tasmania’s Supreme Court on the grounds that the tribunal ruling did not recognize how the “Ladies Lounge” promotes equal opportunity in the context of women’s historical and ongoing societal disadvantages, according to a press release.

Hyperallergic has contacted Tasmania’s Supreme Court for more information.

The participatory exhibition, which offers viewers exclusive access to some of the museum’s most sought-after artworks in a lavish setting featuring luxurious green curtains and male butlers serving champagne, was conceived as a subversion of Tasmania’s historical exclusion of women from specific spaces such as public bars.

“We need to challenge the law to consider a broader reading of its definitions as they apply to art and the impact it has on the world, as well as the right for conceptual art to make some people (men) uncomfortable,” Kaechele said in a statement.

In compliance with the court-mandated 28-day period in which the museum was ordered to stop refusing entry to “persons who do not identify as ladies,” MONA closed the show until further notice. During this time, Kaechele said in an interview that she received various suggestions of how to reform the exhibit to make it eligible for a legal exemption that would allow the installation to continue to bar men from entry. 

According to the Australian island state’s 1998 Anti-Discrimination Act, gender discrimination is permitted in specific cases regarding religious institutions, education, employment, single-gender facilities, and shared accommodations. In this vein, Kaechele said that the exhibition could potentially be transformed into a “safe space” of Bible study in which women could gather to read various Biblical passages; the show would be open to men on Sundays “because it’s the nice thing to do.”

Kaechele also suggested turning the Ladies Lounge into a restroom facility with composting toilets or having the exhibition live in a stateless location, such as on a ship in international waters or in an airport.

“All we need is for one Swiss billionaire to buy the Ladies Lounge and it could operate without exemptions,” Kaechele said, adding that she thinks it would be best fit for an art fair or as a women-only pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

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