The sex worker is no stranger to the art gallery. As sex workers, representations of our lives and bodies hang on the wall of major galleries around the world, and indeed in replica prints in living rooms and hallways across the nation. We see ourselves in films and television, novels and pop songs, often reduced to a character to pity or lust after, to add some edge or decoration.
This exhibition is about sex workers themselves as image makers, as object makers, sound artists, poets and performance artists; it is about the sex in sex work but is also about the unseen labour involved in being paid for ‘sex’. Through art the subtleties of the profession will be explored; boundaries, connections, pleasure and communication, stigma and stereotypes, bodies and the values we place on them.
This exhibition is an interrogation into the way sex workers are seen, and valued, within both a fine art and wider social context. Above all it is a refusal to occupy just one kind of representational lane.
Work includes photography, moving image, art installations, sculpture, paintings, poetry and mixed media. All are produced by sex workers working within Aotearoa.
Many pieces will be for sale, with a percentage of the proceeds going to The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.
THIS EXHIBITION HAS NOW PASSED.
Read on for articles and videos about the 2019 exhibition
Click here to see the winners of the People's Choice awards
Click here to read the public feedback about the exhibition
by Wellington Museum
Sex Workers of Aotearoa: A day in the life of exhibition came into fruition because of the stereotypes and stigmas that sex workers face from people who judge the industry from the outside. These stereotypical representations are what make sex workers afraid to share who they are, or what they do.
In 2018, I was interviewed and filmed for a TVNZ documentary, The Secret Lives of Sex Workers, to show the ...
by Anna Harcourt
Art has been obsessed with sex workers for centuries. From Picasso to Dostoyevsky to Satine the courtesan from Moulin Rouge!, sex workers have long been a favourite muse. But how often do we see sex workers as the artists themselves?
Jordan Quinn has changed that. She’s a 28-year-old Wellingtonian and sex worker, and the curator of Sex Workers of Aotearoa.
Feeback: from the public
and the sex work communtiy
The following feedback has been collected by Flux at Wellington Museum, as well as from social media.
It was with great pleasure wandering around the exhibition. It is an eye, and mind, opener. Great work in terms of display, writing and poem that challenges our mind and thoughts. The world would be a better place is we allow ourselves to learn from each other and what we do.
Great exhibition – voice recordings particularly good to listen to especially considering consent /content/
Amazing to hear and see the contrast and varying takes on the industry. Excellent to see how positivity outshines negativity.
I liked that walking in felt warm and comfortable – vibe-wise. I liked the variety of mediums and messages. Very much appreciate the artist explanations accompanying the works. I really hope some viewers will walk away from this exhibition with more open minds than before.
Very cool. Only in Welly for a few days on holiday and this was a highlight.
To me sex workers are important in the society. There are people who need the service, hence their (SW) existence is very important. They can reduce the crime rate so those who need the service can buy the service without hurting innocent people. It’s a job people choose to do, nothing good or bad. I just can’t imagine a world without sex workers. How many more women would have been hurt? Respect their choice!
Great – Repeat, hopefully bigger.
Exposure to a part of society that you hear a bit about, yet I know very little about due to lack of exposure. Nice to get to hear directly from the protagonists! Thank you.
This is a great piece and I think really challenges stigma that exists around sex work. Displaying and normalising the lifestyle and career of sex work is really valuable. Thank you.
Really loved the true representation of our modern society. Focusing on the now. The personal. The unspoken lifestyle that many of us are involved /in/. We need this representation.
I very much enjoyed the exhibition and commend the museum for hosting such an oft-misunderstood aspect of society. Decriminalising sex work was a great thing and enables and empowers those who choose to work in the sex industry, allowing (them) to be heard as individuals. The exhibition was a great example of that. Thank you!
I love, love, love the SWOA exhibit. It was empowering and also extremely revealing. The pieces were honest and raw. I used to be a SW when I had to pay my way through university. Now, in my professional job, I often think back to my time in the oldest profession that kept me from being homeless. There is so much more to be said around the stigma with SW. All I can say is it kept a roof over my head and allowed me to graduate. Thanks for this exhibit.
In the face of so much stigmatisation and isolation it can be easy to forget to be proud of myself as a sex worker. This exhibition made me feel so proud.
Such a special exhibition. Breaking taboos in such a central museum is so impressive. Giving these people a platform and the general public access and insight. Exactly what you should be doing – sparking conversation. Progressive and interesting and some really great work!
Wonderful especially Nova. Thanks for showing this important work in all its forms.
It has taken a very long time for the Victorian influences and ‘righteousness’ of the church to be overthrown. This exhibition is real, it gives a voice to those in society who are largely unheard and gives over to expression, creativity and a very ‘human’ side to the industry. The only change that the average New Zealander sees with our law changes is that sex workers are no longer ‘criminals’.
Really enjoyed this exhibition. Unique. Intense and incisive messages. Stories that need to be told.
Very interesting and enlightening exhibit. Liked the different forms/media on show and which helped make the visitor walk around/interact with the works/space. Some works very intimate and personal. Love the concept and very good message for people to see/hear viewpoints of sex workers themselves.
Very brave. Expected more on advocacy for sex workers’ rights – take it a step further. Also some historical and global aspects could expand this a great deal.
I love how the exhibition is just so pure, raw and uncensored. It really helps to understand the world of sex workers and there would be so much more to show. What is fascinating for me is that it is so open and everybody can visit it. That’s one big step into the right way. Very good work!
A fairly frank and honest look into the lives of women who work by choice in sex work. I found it interesting in a non-prurient way. Open and honestly curated exhibit – and a bit of an interesting surprise in Wellington Museum. Good on you all.
I wish to commend all those involved in the process of allowing the sex workers of Aotearoa Art exhibition to take place in this space. Opening up the space for conversation to start normalising the sex industry. An industry that, in my opinion, is vital to a healthy society. Many thanks for taking what may have been a bold step for some.
What an empowering exhibition. Art without boundaries of social recognition. Wonderful to exhibit such beautiful works.
Interesting, something I hadn’t thought about much. Cheers for the insight.
Some really cool and creative pieces that provide an intimate insight into different perspectives of sex work. (This visitor went on to list favourites but not noted here in general comment JGM)
It is really great to see stigmatised minorities given space and voice in mainstream spaces. This is the one that brought me to the gallery (at WM) for the first time. Tautaka! Well laid out, easy to browse and see everything, great range and diversity of art, a chill and pleasant space.
Lovely exhibition that actually gives us a point of view of the sex workers. We tend to forget to ask their opinion when they are the ones actually concerned. It feels great to give them back what they are owed. It was beautiful, thank you.