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This art museum has a new home for its Picassos: The women’s bathroom


A private museum in Australia has moved part of its collection, including several Picassos, to a ladies restroom after a court ruled that displaying them in a female-only Ladies Lounge was discriminatory to men.

The American artist behind the lounge, Kirsha Kaechele, is appealing a court decision handed down in April after a man complained about being refused entry to the exhibit at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart because of his gender.

In the meantime, Kaechele, who is married to the museum’s owner, says she did “a little redecorating.”

“I thought a few of the bathrooms in the museum could do with an update … Some cubism in the cubicles. So I’ve relocated the Picassos,” she said in an email shared by a spokeswoman, Sara Gates-Matthews.

The lounge was a conceptual artwork that, as The Washington Post reported previously, only allowed one man inside: the butler who served women fancy high teas. It has been closed since the state of Tasmania’s civil and administrative tribunal gave the museum 28 days to stop refusing entry based on gender.

Kaechele is considering several other possible workarounds to the court ruling.

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The law states that there are certain grounds for denying access based on gender, such as in a religious institution where the religious doctrines require it, in the case of single-gender schools, and in some types of shared accommodation.

“We’ll get the Lounge open again as a church / school / boutique glamping accommodation,” Kaechele said in a social media post on Monday.

Last month, she suggested the Ladies Lounge could become a place to do Bible study — saying that the Bible includes both “inspiring perspectives” and “challenging concepts,” particularly in regard to women “as with all great art.” On Sundays, she proposed “we would open [the Lounge] to men” for “personal enrichment and meditation” in the form of ironing and folding laundry.

“As our work continues on Section 26 of the Anti-Discrimination Act, ladies can take a break and enjoy some quality time in the Ladies Room,” Kaechele said in an email Tuesday.

Previously, the museum’s restrooms were all unisex.

During the tribunal hearing, Kaechele said the practice of requiring women to drink in ladies lounges rather than public bars only ended in parts of Australia in 1970 and that, in practice, exclusion of women in public spaces continues. “Over history, women have seen significantly fewer interiors,” she wrote in her witness statement.

The Tasmanian museum, billed by its wealthy owner David Walsh as a “subversive adult Disneyland,” has a history of unusual — and sometimes controversial — exhibitions.

This month it is exhibiting the world’s only copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s mythical 2015 album “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” which is not available to stream in full anywhere online.

Its collection includes a wall of sculpted vulvas and a machine that mimics human digestion, complete with odors, from chewing to defecation.

“I actually think the lawsuit is a blessing in disguise,” Kaechele wrote in an interview posted on the museum’s webpage last month. She added that it “encourages us to move beyond the simple pleasures of champagne and expensive art.”

Frances Vinall and Leo Sands contributed to this report.





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