An Exhibition About Tattoos

I went to Paris International Tattoo Convention this weekend and while I was walking around, watching tattoo artists do their job, I was thinking about making an exhibition about tattoos. How to exhibit tattoos?

There has been an exhibition about tattoos at the Musée du Quai Branly in 2014. Tatoueurs, Tatoués was the first exhibition on tattoos in a national museum in France. Looking at what methods were used to present the art of tattooing, it was a mix of photographs, videos, and silicone body parts on which contemporary artists had tattooed a piece. Indeed, the body needs to be represented as it is the medium of the art. That was the first thing I was thinking about when developing a tattoo exhibition in my mind: how to represent the body? Silicone body parts are a nice ideas, but they are static, and silicone is not skin after all.

A tattoo convention is very different than an exhibition. It’s a massive meeting of hundreds of tattoo artists from around the world. Each has a booth where they can meet their customers and tattoo them. Plus, there are competitions throughout the weekend, rewarding the best black and grey, coloured, small, big, … piece. It is definitely not an exhibition but there are still a lot of people going there to just have a look and check the different artists out. It was really interesting to see the different styles and the artists working in different ways with different methods. I was able to witness how traditional tattoos were made (hand-taped method) and that, alone, was worth the ticket’s price.

As a consequence, a perfect tattoo exhibition would be a mix of both event. It would feature the following (not in a specific order) :

  • a room on the history of tattoos with some archive material to give some perspective into the origin of the art and contextualize today’s practices. This part of the exhibition would present photographs, texts, videos and any other material if relevant to the subject.
  • a room on the different methods used around the world. Here, some tattooing material would be on display with some information on their origin and use. It would also be great to have demonstrations of the different methods. This could be organized with artists who come to the space to show their art.
  • a photo exhibition would be one of the highlights of the exhibition. It would be a series, commissioned for the occasion, of tattooers and tattoo collectors. The staging could be quite fun, I imagine things in movement: a massive wall projection presenting the photographs. Something very visual.
  • Tattoo artists would be present at the end of the exhibition to talk about their work and journey. They would even be given a booth and open to walk-ins.. I think it is important to include the actual business within the exhibition. However, it cannot be a show of people getting tattooed because this can make them and the artists uncomfortable (and for a reason). Therefore, it would need to be done in a different way as a convention work but it would still be interesting to have this connection made with the industry.

This is just a sketch of a concept but I would love to work on something like this one day. I love tattoos and the tattoo culture. I would love to convey this in a exhibition-experience.


Featured Image: snake back tattoo by Tito Inkid.

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