CNN  — 

A museum in Australia is being forced to allow men into art exhibit originally conceived for women only, after a tribunal ruled it “discriminatory,” following a complaint by a disgruntled man who was denied entry.

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has been ordered to stop refusing entry to “persons who do not identify as ladies,” to its Ladies Lounge exhibit within 28 days, after a ruling was made by the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Tuesday.

The experiential artwork by artist and museum curator Kirsha Kaechele is billed by the museum as a “tremendously lavish space” where women can indulge in “decadent nibbles, fancy tipples, and other ladylike pleasures — hosted and entertained by the fabulous butler.”

Jason Lau, a visitor from New South Wales, who had paid the museum’s $35 AUD ($23 USD) entry fee, was barred from entering the exhibit on April 1 last year. According to tribunal documents, Lau believed he experienced direct gender discrimination. “He felt strongly enough about this to file a complaint with Equal Opportunities Tasmania,” read the notes.

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

Kaechele said she believed that women “deserve both equal rights and special privileges in the form of unequal rights,” as a means of restitution for historical injustices, “for a minimum of 300 years.”

The Ladies Lounge, enclosed in green silk curtains contains “precious antiquities and priceless modernist works” including “two paintings that spectacularly demonstrate Picasso’s genius,” according to Kaechele.

In its judgment, the tribunal recognized that the art exhibition had “a pointedly participatory component that is intentionally discriminatory, for a good faith artistic purpose that many might not only appreciate but sympathise with or endorse.”

However, it also asserted that Australia’s 1998 anti-discrimination act “does not permit discrimination for good faith artistic purpose per se.”

An extension of the art

Throughout the proceedings Kaechele and her supporters treated the tribunal as an extension of her art, wearing matching dark blue suits and synchronizing their movements.

In her witness statement to the tribunal, the artist said: “We are so deeply embedded in the dominion of man that we do not even see the myriad ways in which we adhere to and multiply his reign.”

She added this is why the Ladies Lounge was needed as “a peaceful space women can retreat to; a haven in which to think clearly, and relish the pure company of women — to escape the invisible story woven through history.”

Kaechele and her navy-clad entourage outside the tribunal.

Kaechele in an earlier interview with ABC’s The Project, told the program she was “grateful” for Lau’s complaint, as it gave her the chance to test out the argument legally, but warned that a ruling in Lau’s favor would mean the Ladies Lounge would have to close.

“Because the requirement is that it will have to open to men, and that’s not happening,” she said.

After Tuesday’s ruling, MONA’s official spokesperson told CNN that the institution was “deeply disappointed” by the tribunal’s decision. “We will take some time to absorb the result and consider our options,” they said, adding: “We request that the artist’s privacy is respected at this time.”

The museum’s official Instagram account posted a more explicit response: a photo of a velvet-clad hand, adorned with the initials KK, giving the middle finger, to which one user commented, “I visited in 2021 with my husband and loved the novelty of being able to go into a space that no man was allowed into. It was beautiful, the room, the art installation, the meaning of it all.”