Australian Museum Admits to Showing Fake Picassos

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has revealed that it was displaying fake Picasso paintings in its viral Ladies Lounge exhibition — a participatory art experience exclusively accessible to “any and all ladies” organized by artist and curator Kirsha Kaechele. After the Guardian Australia and the Picasso Administration, the entity that manages the late artist’s estate, raised skepticism about the authenticity of the artworks on view, Kaechele confessed that she had actually made them herself.

The museum made headlines in March, when a male visitor sued on claims of gender discrimination after he was denied entry to the women-only Ladies Lounge show. The installation was initially developed as a subversion of Australia’s historical exclusion of women from certain public spaces. Kaechele and MONA lost the case in a tribunal hearing, and were ordered by court to admit all paying visitors to the installation. In an attempt to circumvent this mandate, the museum transformed the installation into a women’s toilet.

The Ladies Lounge made headlines a few months ago after a male visitor sued on claims of gender discrimination because he was denied entry.

A lengthy blog post published on MONA’s website yesterday, July 10, revealed that Kaechele forged the phony Picassos in the show, adding to the controversy. The curator, whose spouse David Walsh owns the museum, admitted she reproduced the paintings in early 2021 in an effort to make the Ladies Lounge “as opulent and sumptuous as possible.”

The museum had previously stated that the paintings had been passed down to Kaechele from her great-grandmother, who purportedly summered with the Spanish painter and sculptor during a brief romantic relationship.

Hyperallergic has reached out to the Picasso Administration for comment. MONA declined to comment further.

“Three years ago I fantasised there would be a scandal: ‘Fake Picassos Exposed: Art Fraud!’” Kaechele wrote in the blog post, adding that she expected a Picasso scholar, enthusiast, “or maybe just someone who googles things” to eventually expose the forgery, especially since one of the paintings had been hung upside down.

She noted that four months after she reproduced the Picasso paintings, she saw the original version of Picasso’s “Luncheon on the Grass, After Manet” (1961) on view at Paris’s Picasso Museum — one of the works she had copied. The artist created the piece during a period when he made his own variations of historic artworks.

Kaechele also said in her blog post that MONA does have real Picasso works in its collection, as the museum acquired a series of ceramics by the artist.

“How does one justify simultaneously showing real and faux Picassos? It’s one thing to have fabricated objects in a room as part of a conceptual artwork where everything is fake. But to then display real ones in another part of the museum … It’s complicated,” Kaechele wrote, signing off the post with an apology written in French to the Picasso Administration.

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