Mona's High Tea for Two in the women's only Ladies Lounge

Could this be the world's most mysterious high tea? Its creator, Kirsha Kaechele won't say, only offering that its components – the experience, the art, the food and drink – are all simply "incredible".

The curator at Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) has introduced a High Tea for Two that "includes an array of preposterous morsels prepared by Mona's executive chef Vince Trim and his team, matched refreshments, your very own butler, and museum entry".

Participants are advised: "Come dressed up in your green, gold, black and white finery" to match the decor in the snaking, sumptuous Ladies Lounge, a "women-only" space designed by American-born artist Kaechele, the wife of Mona founder, David Walsh. It was introduced during the 2020 Mona revamp that also included the addition of child-friendly public art, a rehang of works and the establishment of new spaces in which to linger, the Ladies Lounge being one of those.

One thing is certain, the tea is more than just bubbles and nibbles, but "a conceptual artwork", says Kaechele, though she acknowledges, "Many will experience it simply as a beautiful dining experience, and/or a private club for women."

Designed around the character of "Kirsha's great-grandmother: a scandalous socialite who threw ladies-only parties at her Beverly Hills and Basel estates involving a fleet of devoted butlers, 400-year-old wines, and the occasional visit from Pablo Picasso", tea-takers will be specially privy to "several priceless Picassos … rummaged from great-granny's attic".

Kaechele says the tea and the lounge are a departure from her recent work, centred around expanding the local appeal of Mona and the 24 Carrot Gardens Project, a garden-based social enterprise promoting hands-on learning about nutrition and wellbeing for children.

"All my other work is about social improvement," says Kaechele, adding, "I suppose you could draw a long bow to suggest this is ultimately that, if by improvement you mean expansion of minds and transcendence of rules.

"It is intended to teach people not to be fascists, which would improve society. But for that reason I'd say the Ladies Lounge originates from an opposite place to my social work. It is rebellious, provocative, exclusive, self-indulgent. It can be painful: a deep yoga pose where tightness must be breathed through. Though it looks very elegant, it is ultimately punk rock.

"[That's] as opposed to 24 Carrot, our kids garden program, which is just generous and pure. There is no complexity or paradox, it is about making the world a better place. A clear pond, while the Ladies Lounge is a dark well.

"But through all its layers, the guest of the Ladies Lounge feels completely indulged, showered with attention, champagne and beautiful food, healed by the rich green atmosphere and immersed in ladies-only energy, which is very special. A women's only space is rare and wonderful."

The High Tea for Two is available Saturday and Sunday, 11am and 2.30pm. It costs $500 for two. To book, email tickets@mona.net.au or call (03) 6277 9978.

See mona.net.au

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