Art Museums for and by Sex Workers

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Abstract

There has been a global push since the 1990s to destigmatize sex workers. Even though there is much art generated for and by sex workers in China, there is no museum dedicated to them, and there is only a limited amount of research on their art. In order to fill this research vacuum, this article explores sex workers’ art museums and Chinese sex workers’ art through an integrated lens. It draws on an interdisciplinary study of social justice education in art, museum studies, sex work movement materials, and the art history of sex workers in China. Because there is no case study in China to refer to, this project uses the Dumas Brothel, an art museum in the United States where sex work is not legal as it is in China. The goal is to present the lives and stories of actual sex workers in the agency of an art museum while avoiding the overgeneralization of sex workers. This article identifies the potential role of Chinese sex workers’ museums in destigmatizing sex workers in China.