Ladies Lounge

“The creator of an art installation that has become the subject of a formal anti-discrimination complaint says she is “absolutely delighted” that the case has ended up in Tasmania’s civil and administrative tribunal.

Kirsha Kaechele’s installation Ladies Lounge opened in Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in 2020, and sees women who enter the space being pampered by male butlers and served champagne while being surrounded by some of the museum’s finest pieces of art. Those who do not identify as women are not permitted entry.

On Tuesday, the performance piece expanded beyond the subterranean halls of the museum on Tasmania’s Berriedale Peninsula, with New South Wales man Jason Lau seeking justice in the tribunal over the museum’s alleged discrimination against some visitors.

During her defence, Kaechele ran through a timeline of Australian women’s lived experience of discrimination and exclusion, including being barred from working in the public service sector once married, and receiving lower pay than men for the same work – something Mona’s own management had engaged in up until 10 years ago, the artist pointed out in her evidence.

“The men are experiencing Ladies Lounge, their experience of rejection is the artwork,” she said.”

“Kaechele fronted the tribunal with an entourage of 25 women, all dressed in navy business attire, who engaged in discreet synchronised choreographed movements throughout the daylong hearing.

Mona’s defence included the claim the Ladies Lounge did include men, because their feelings of exclusion were in fact part of the installation’s artistic effect.”