Tattoo exhibition at Quai Branly Museum

Tattoo exhibition at Quai Branly Museum

In Art, Trends by Europa Regina


In 2010, a study conducted by the Institut Français de l’Opinion Publique [IFOP] revealed that one in ten French people were tattooed, and one in five in the 25-34 age group. In the United States this proportion is constantly increasing, with almost a quarter of the population wearing tattoos today,based on a 2012 Harris poll. The ever-growing practice of tattooing has been nothing less than a craze since the 1990s and 2000s.

Fashion, design, advertising and the media have all been quick to appropriate the “tattoo phenomenon”, and we have lost count of the number of stars who have given in to it. In museums, its presence can also be noted. From the Australian Museum to the Dapper Museum, it holds pride of place in many exhibitions. For Ellen Futter, President of the National Museum in New York, the reason for this success has to do with the fact that “there is no known culture which does not practice tattooing, be it permanent or temporary”.

So it is present in all societies, but its existence is hardly recent. Ötzi – whose carbon-14 dating suggests that he lived around 3000 BCE – was discovered with his body decorated with 57 tattoos. H.G. Wells, for his part, observed that “in all times, for as far as prehistory goes back, there were human beings who painted themselves, or had themselves painted”. Despite this remarkable longevity, tattooing underwent different fortunes in the collective imagination. In Europe, it was once regarded as a sign of social exclusion, evidence of a marginal life. In Asia its presence referred to the criminal underworld, while it was a mark of social prestige among the people of Oceania.

The emergence of new technologies and an ever more accessible world would help tattooing enjoy a second artistic life. With the circulation of information, exchanges between tattooers have thrived and we were soon seeing new lines of designs. In tandem, tattooing techniques have been evolving and bodies are currently being offered in their full dimension. In every corner of the planet, there are now renowned tattoo artists, actual artistic currents and works boasting undeniable aesthetic qualities.

Tattoo exhibition at Quai Branly Museum

So it is with the aim of showing the public the entire contemporary and aesthetic range of tattoos that the musée du quai Branly has wished to devote a show to this practice. Titled “TATTOO”, it will propose 5 circuits for the public, retracing the ancient nature, ubiquity and diversity of forms of tattooing as well as the wealth and aesthetic quality of contemporary works. The sets and scenery are the work of Réza Azard, museographic designer for the Guadalajara Guggenheim, in Mexico, and set designer for many shows held at the musée du quai Branly, such as PLANÈTE MÉTISSE, DOGON and LE SIÈCLE DU JAZZ.

This exhibition has been designed by Anne & Julien, founders of the art magazine HEY! modern art & pop culture, journalists, authors, documentary film-makers and exhibition curators, to whom I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the originality of the work done and the quality of the works on view.
I would also like to warmly thank Tin-tin, president of the national union of tattoo artists, recognized by his peers as one of the best master-tattooers in France, for having given us his artistic advice.

Warm thanks must also go to the project’s 2 scientific advisors, the journalist Pascal Bagot, author and director of the documentary La Voie de l’encre, and Sébastien Galliot, Labex CAP postdoctoral
researcher, specializing in the fields of the anthropology of rituals, the anthropology of art and technologies, and the ethnology of tattooing in the Samoan community.

Last of all, let me invite visitors to discover this show in large numbers, a show which will enable you to see tattoos in a new light.

Tattoo exhibition at Quai Branly Museum

Tattooing in Europe

Tattooing in Europe was practiced in different ways depending on the period. If Greek and Roman historians provided the first descriptions, the practice seems to go back to at least the Chalcolithic: the period during which Ötzi, a man whose tattooed body was conserved for 4,500 years in the ice of the Tyrol Alps, where he was found in 1991, lived. Christianity outlawed tattooing: it was prohibited in Leviticus and the New Testament, then officially repressed in 787 by the second Council of Nicaea. It was still practiced, however, by pilgrims in the Middle Ages and even today by the Copts, Armenians and Christians of the Holy Land. In the 19th century, tattooing was renewed and spread more widely across the continent: people showed their tattoos in hovels but also in the comfort of salons and at the court. In the 20th century, tattooing then joined the history of art: in the 1980s, the Swiss tattoo artist Félix Leu (1945-2002) rejected any distinction between academic art and popular art. Before him in London, Sutherland MacDonald (?-1926), nicknamed “the Michelangelo of tattooing”, had “tattoo artist” printed on his calling card in 1891.

Tattoo exhibition at Quai Branly Museum

Tattoo exhibition at Quai Branly Museum: Tattooists, Tattooed

FROM 06 MAY 2014 TO 18 OCTOBER 2015
West mezzanine

Curators: Anne & Julien
Creators of the art magazine HEY! modern art & pop culture, performers, journalists, authors, directors
Artistic consultant: Tin-tin, tattoo artist
Scientific advisors: Sébastien Galliot, anthropologist, specialist in tattooing
Pascal Bagot, for Japan, journalist and director

Musée du Quai Branly