A Museum’s Feminist Artwork Excluded Men. So One Man Took It to Court.

A wall of vulvas. A performance featuring a recently slaughtered bull. A “poo machine” that replicates the journey of food through the human body.

The Museum of New and Old Art, or MONA, in Hobart, the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania, is no stranger to works that may shock or appall, or the criticism they may draw. But this week, it found itself defending an unusual claim: An artwork, a visitor complained, broke discrimination laws.

The Ladies Lounge — plush green curtains, lavish surroundings, original works by Picasso and Sidney Nolan — is an installation by the American artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele. Opened in December 2020, it is accessible to “any and all ladies,” according to the MONA website — and precisely zero men, other than the solicitous butlers who cater to the women within it.

Like other men, Jason Lau was not allowed to enter the installation when he visited the museum in April 2023. Mr. Lau lodged a complaint with Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, saying he was discriminated against because of his gender.

The matter was heard by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Hobart on Tuesday.

“I visited MONA, paid 35 Australian dollars,” or about $23, “on the expectation that I would have access to the museum, and I was quite surprised when I was told that I would not be able to see one exhibition, the Ladies Lounge,” Mr. Lau said at the hearing, according to reports in the Australian news media. “Anyone who buys a ticket would expect a fair provision of goods and services.”

The Ladies Lounge, an art installation by Kirsha Kaechele, is a space that only women can enter.Credit…Jesse Hunniford/MONA
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