Exhibition: Tattoo, Paris

tatoueurs_tatoues_2Words by Billie Jenkins

Peter Greenway’s Pillow Book, is named so for the haunting pages made from the calligraphy covered skin of a dead man, written by one lover and owned by another. The film captures a crossover between the pleasure of beautiful calligraphy and the potency of lust and love. It was an exciting surprise to find that the realistic models of body parts, tattooed by some of the worlds greatest living tattooists, are desribed as volumes by their exhibitors, the Quai Branly Museum, Paris, capturing that sense of human stories  told over skin.

This incredible exhibition offers the most comprehensive charting of tattooing’s history ever put on public display. From our nolithic ancestors, to the myth of Queen Victoria’s bengal tiger fighting a python, to the fascinating ceremony of tattooing in Oriental cultures.

In Western cultures tattooing has played a role in marking the path of someones life and have often reflected marginalised groups, from the French Code Noir that marked criminals and prostitutes, to the spectacle of tattooed performers in American sideshow’s in the 1830’s, and sailors marking their travels. Interestingly Christianity outlawed the practice from the birth of the new testament until the 1700’s, when liberal fringes of society began to adopt inking as fashion, however it remained a taboo to the majority bar a short flourish in the Victorian era (hence the legends of Queen Victorias bengal tiger)

The extensive historical documentation, alongside 300 original works of art, that include 13 ‘volumes’ and 22 body suits painted by the worlds most esteemed tattooists makes this once in a lifetime viewing, and will leave your regretting that set of stars you got on the high street.

Tattoo is on at the Quai Branley Museum, Paris until 18 October 2015.




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