Physical Address

304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124

Mona: Kirsha Kaechele Forged Ladies Lounge Paintings
‘I hope you can forgive me’: Tasmania’s Mona Picasso paintings that have dominated global headlines have been revealed to be fake, painted by Kirsha Kaechele. Photograph: Mona

Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) made international news last month when it moved paintings by Pablo Picasso to a female toilet cubicle.

But on Wednesday, after multiple queries from Guardian Australia, Mona has come clean: the Picassos are fake.

The so-called Picasso paintings, one being a copy of Luncheon on the Grass, After Manet (1961), were actually painted by Kirsha Kaechele, an artist, curator, and the wife of Mona’s millionaire owner, David Walsh.

Kaechele made headlines earlier this year when a court ruled that Mona’s Ladies Lounge, a female-only space in the gallery she curated, must admit men; and again when she moved the Picassos into a female toilet cubicle to legally keep them just for female viewers.

But on Wednesday, after being approached by Guardian Australia and separately by the Picasso administration, Kaechele published a statement on Mona’s website admitting the paintings were not made by the late Spanish artist but painted by herself three and a half years ago.

The museum previously claimed that Kaechele inherited the paintings from her great-grandmother, who she said had been a lover of Picasso’s, and holidayed with him.

Kaechele also admitted that other works that had been displayed in the Ladies Lounge were not genuine, including spears that were described as antiques, and a rug that was said to once belong to Queen Mary of Denmark.

“Allow me to explain—I have no choice but to explain. From stage right a journalist beckons—she’s onto me!” she wrote in the blog post. “And from stage left, a letter has arrived—from the Picasso Administration. ‘Would you be so kind as to explain…?’ The French are always so impeccably mannered.”

In the post, Kaechele said she had waited “patiently” for almost four years for the truth to be discovered.

She said that she decided to forge the works when the Ladies Lounge was first created, as “it had to be as opulent and sumptuous as possible… if men were to feel as excluded as possible, the Lounge would need to display the most important artworks in the world—the very best.

“I knew of a number of Picasso paintings I could borrow from friends, but none of them were green and I wished for the Lounge to be monochrome. I also had time working against me, not to mention the cost of insuring a Picasso – exorbitant!” she wrote.

She said that she liked that women had been “questioning [Picasso’s] supremacy” and that she “liked that a misogynist would dominate the walls of the Ladies Lounge. Alongside a work by Sidney Nolan (another misogynist) depicting a rape scene, Leda and Swan.” A Mona spokesperson confirmed to the Guardian that the Sidney Nolan work is genuine.

Kaechele said she painted the Picasso works in secret and claimed that even the gallery staff were fooled, saying someone called to tell her one of the paintings had been hung upside down. “I waited for weeks. Nothing happened. I was sure it would blow up. But it didn’t,” she wrote in the post.

Kaechele said that, since then, “all of my acquisitions for Mona to date have been (real) Picassos. Which presents a problem. 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.”

“I started as a conceptual artist and ended up an activist. And it’s made me reflect more profoundly on gender imbalance. I always hated hardcore feminism, but voila! Everything I hate I become,” she wrote.

“Three years ago I fantasised there would be a scandal: ‘Fake Picassos Exposed: Art Fraud!’ I imagined that a Picasso scholar, or maybe just a Picasso fan, or maybe just someone who googles things, would visit the Ladies Lounge and see that the painting was upside down and expose me on social media.

“I am relieved I have told you because now we can revel together in this madness. Assuming you still want to speak to me. (I hope you can forgive me.)”

She ended with an apology in French to the Picasso Administration, which manages his estate: “I am very very sorry for causing you this problem. With great respect for the greatest artist…”

Guardian Australia has approached the Picasso Administration for comment.

Source: Guardian Australia