Members of the sex worker advocacy group PROUD, the Prostitution Information Center (PIC), and sex worker allies are protesting the “NR. 1 Tourist Attraction” exhibition at Amsterdam Museum. British artist and self-proclaimed prostitution abolitionist Jimini Hignett’s Red Light District exhibition opened 1 November and includes videos, self-portraits, souvenirs, and information about sex work which PROUD says is “stigmatizing and false.”

Last week PROUD announced their weekly protest at the Amsterdam Museum which began in early November and is scheduled to continue weekly, “So long as the museum refuses to correct the lies in the exposition itself and this exposition remains open.”

Proud cites examples of misinformation included in the expo such as the claim “that sex workers have disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS, that [they] were abused and lack confidence which is why [they] get into prostitution, that [sex workers] have to take drugs to cope with [their] work, and of course that all prostitution is exploitative and violent towards women.” Proud adds that “The exposition also displays PIC and PROUD items, but of course slanders the name of these organizations by saying that [they] provide a ‘sanitized’ image of prostitution.”

Chairman of PIC Nadia van der Linde said in an interview that PIC feels ‘betrayed’ by Amsterdam Museum’s decision to display the ‘NR. 1 Tourist Attraction’ exhibit, which “is a big propaganda campaign full of lies, moralizing slogans and just enormous stigmatizing messages that push sex workers further into the damn corner and find it increasingly difficult to do their work safely.” Additionally, PIC tweeted that some of the photos featured in the exhibit were gathered from sex workers unethically.

HIV Vereniging – a local HIV organization – has also composed a letter to the museum which expresses concerns about the exhibit’s perpetuation of HIV stigma and urges the Amsterdam Museum to show solidarity with sex workers.

The Amsterdam Museum says they “give the artists the artistic freedom to present their personal vision in a work of art. That does not mean that this vision is also the museum’s point of view.” Protesters are using the hashtag “#boycottamsterdammuseum” to raise awareness about the exhibit on social media.

PIC tweeted that a “small group of sex workers and allies met with Margriet Schavemaker, artistic director at the Amsterdam Museum” and learned that the museum “refuses to close the stigmatising expo because they ‘respect artists’ and will not censure artists…” PIC says, “The Amsterdam Museum made it clear that they do not care that the expo is full of factual lies, slander and harmful, stigmatising propaganda…that is why we continue to protest against the Amsterdam Museum until they close the harmful expo and apologize for throwing sex workers under the bus in name of respect for artists.”

Hignett was also sharply criticized for replicating the famous Mariska Majoor statue of Belle – a PIC initiative honoring the sex workers of the world – and encouraging exhibit visitors to carve their initials into the statue. The replica has since been removed from the exhibit.

PROUD reports that the museum has created “space in a room next door to display any fact-checks we might want to provide…” The controversial exhibit is scheduled to run until March 2020.

Featured Image: Bojan Cvetanović [CC BY-SA]