A WELL-known gallery is facing calls from two prostitute support groups to cancel an exhibition about men who buy sex and their explicit views on the sex workers involved.
The Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow is due to host Invisible Men from Saturday, a series of featureless white masks, with the words of male "punters" superimposed on them from a website on which anonymous men post reviews of women they have paid to perform sex acts. A price tag on each image states how much the man paid.
ScotPep, a charity dedicated to the promotion of sex workers' rights and Glasgow Sex Worker Open University, which runs support services for people involved in the industry, have described the exhibition as offensive and dehumanising.
They criticised the gallery for excluding the voice of sex workers and ignoring art produced by sex workers. A joint statement said: "The exhibition depicts sex workers as faceless, excludes the voices of sex workers and uses depictions of sex workers in intimate or even distressing situations without those women's consent."
They claim the quotes used in the exhibition from the prostitution review website Punternet are selective and misleading, but also argue that the misogyny and violence highlighted in the art are general to society and not specific to sex work.
They describe the artwork as feminist propaganda designed to push for criminalisation of the sex trade which they argue would make prostitutes less safe.
A ScotPep spokeswoman said: "This exhibition is disturbing on a number of levels not least because it pushes for a failed legislative model - the criminalisation of clients - that has been shown again and again not to reduce the number of people selling sex, but rather to force sex workers into less safe conditions."
Speaking on behalf of Glasgow Sex Worker Open University, Molly Smith said: "Goma want insight into sex work, why not start by asking sex workers? After all, we produce art that depicts sex workers as human beings, rather than empty masks."
The groups have written to the gallery asking for a rethink ahead of the opening. Ms Smith added: "We would urge Goma to meet with us and hear the concerns of actual sex workers about this effectively abusive exhibition.
"We will be urging Goma's curators to review the decision to hold this exhibition as a matter of urgency."
The exhibition is being promoted by Glagow Women's Support Project and features the work of a feminist artist Nia Thomas.
Invisible Men is to be on show at local government umbrella body Cosla's annual conference, in St Andrews later in the week, before forming part of a wider exhibition for an eight day run at Goma from Saturday.
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said full details of the exhibition would not be announced until tomorrow.
She said no woman is identified and information taken from the website was already in the public domain.
The spokeswoman added: "The exhibition gives a voice to the vast majority of women who find themselves working in prostitution through utter desperation and a lack of sufficient, positive, alternative career choices.
"It is designed to highlight the serious issue of the harm caused by prostitution to the general public. We want people to realise that prostitution, which puts women in distressing situations, is never a free choice. Without male demand, prostitution would not exist."