Secrets are hidden behind a jade-draped dice at Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art. A butler named Hepburn escorts us there; he is been ready for us on the high of the steps resulting in the museum from the wharf on the Derwent River. His recognition is instant; we stand out simply from the Sunday morning jeans-and-T-shirt crowd in our lavish inexperienced frocks and make-up and heels.
“M’ ladies,” Hepburn says, bowing and providing us the contents of a silver tray: two pairs of opera-length gloves embossed in gold on the wrist with the initials “KK”. My pal and I unfurl the gloves past our elbows; they’re emerald inexperienced and velveteen, the ultimate, fanciful contact (or are they?) in our preparation for the most recent – and most secretive – expertise in MONA’s catalogue: the ladies’s-only excessive tea for 2 in that silk-barricaded atelier.
The embossed initials belong to Kirsha Kaechele, artist and curator at MONA (of which her husband, David Walsh, is founder). The Ladies Lounge pays homage to her great-grandmother, Tootsie, whose father, she says, was inheritor to a Swiss watchmaking fortune and founding father of an American pickle empire. The lounge is open to any and all women visiting the museum.
Leading us to the lounge, Hepburn pauses so we would respect Greg Taylor’s celebrated “wall of vaginas” (Cunts … and Other Conversations, 2008-2009); it is a becoming precursor to the decidedly feminist sensuality that awaits us inside. Slipping via a niche within the drapes we discover ourselves in a sorcerous cavern; we would’ve stumbled right into a séance or a fortune teller’s lair. Inside, Hepburn’s sidekick, Robinson, holds out two crystal flutes fizzing with MONA’s personal glowing classic; from the gloaming now emerges an inside plush with the opulence to which Tootsie was accustomed: gilt-framed niches are embedded with antiquities and recessed into the material; canvasses float on the silken partitions; a pickle-shaped couch caterpillars throughout a rug luxurious with a pandemic-related backstory.
Across the lounge I spy Picasso’s Luncheon on the Grass, After Manet (1961) – one of many Cubist’s many subversive, fractured retellings of Manet’s scandalous Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe (1863). Like us, the paintings’s topic is suffused in a malachite glow; not like us, she is bare.
Hepburn exhibits us to a nook desk lit by an exotic-feathered lamp. The drama that ensues is slow-burning; it remembers Tootsie’s shenanigans on her estates in Beverly Hills and Basel the place, attended by a troupe of discreet butlers, she would host ladies-only tea events amid an extravagance of artwork, poetry, victuals – and pictures of absinthe. Our 12-course celebratory enactment is extra degustation than excessive tea, extra efficiency artwork than banquet. We’ve been requisitioned into the retelling of Tootsie’s story; in parting these curtains we have entered a stage on which we’re the thespians and people unsuspecting patrons our hungry, transient viewers.
“Are you the artwork?” asks one such lady, greedily eying our unfold. “Do you just get to eat all day?”
Eat we do – oh, how we eat. But not earlier than savouring the intricate – generally intimate – trivialities encoded in every of the edible artworks created by MONA’s govt chef, Vince Trim. We relish, too, the litany of receptacles wherein they arrive – cones, crystal, pearl shell, a humidor mocking, it appears, these gents’s golf equipment the place males retreat from ladies to smoke cigars and discuss enterprise. Only then will we enable texture and flavour – expertly recognized, within the absence of clues, by my foodie companion – to alchemise on the tongue: grassy, marine, spicy and perfumed; brittle, jellied, vaporised and molten. Each chew is calmly seasoned with jest and allusion; we should style rigorously lest we miss these very important elements. As we decode every course we’re vaguely conscious of individuals within the background casting us quizzical glances, pondering the opposite artworks, straddling that phallic couch. Hepburn is there too, stroking the Art Deco chandelier with a feather duster and so coaxing from its glass flutes a spine-tingling tune.
When, lastly, we’re full to pussy’s bow, we take our depart, bearing in our emerald-gloved arms a file laying naked Tootsie’s life story. Is it reality? Is it artifice, or apocrypha? To ensure, it’s artwork, and we now have hungrily – ravenously – consumed it.
Qantas operates every day flights to Hobart from Melbourne and Sydney. See qantas.com.au
Lenna is a six-minute stroll from Hobart’s Brooke Street Pier the place ferries depart for MONA. Rooms begin from $200 per night time. See lenna.com.au
MONA’s High Tea for Two is a part of Cultural Attractions of Australia’s portfolio of behind-the-scenes cultural experiences in iconic cultural establishments. Tickets price $500 per pair, and embody museum entry; the 2 hour-long expertise runs twice every day on Saturdays and Sundays for a most of two women per session. See culturalattractionsofaustralia.com. Tickets for MONA’s ferry from Hobart to the museum begin from $23 return or single journey. See mona.web.au
Catherine Marshall was a visitor of Cultural Attractions of Australia, MONA and Tourism Tasmania.