Five examples of the tattoo fine art crossover
Damian Hirst’s tattooed vagina isn’t the first use of skin ink in contemporary art
Damien Hirst has caused a stir with his butterfly tattoo on the genitalia of a model for Garage magazine. Other well-known contemporary artists including Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and John Baldessari participated in the project, designing tattoos for a series of "willing canvases" – people who volunteered to be inked for the project. But the crossover between contemporary art and body inking isn't exactly new. Here are five examples.
Louis Vuitton pigs
In 2008, the Daily Telegraph reported that pigs tattooed with the Louis Vuitton logo were banned from a modern art exhibition in Shanghai. Created by Belgian conceptual artist Wim Delvoye for an exhibit called 'Art Farm', the pigs were bred on a farm outside Beijing, then killed and stuffed to be sold for a cool £106,000. Gallery owners felt the inky pigs were in poor taste after a string of complaints.
Delvoye doesn't limit his tattoo art to pigs, however, and he has also sold a tattoo on the back of a Swiss man depicting the Virgin Mary for a record €150,000. Under the agreement, the collector will have to wait until the man dies to retrieve the tattooed skin.
Scott Campbell, thirty-something college dropout from the bayou of Louisiana, with no formal training in art, recently scored a one-man show in a New York gallery called OHWOW. Scott, who also creates drawings and sculpture, has tattooed Heath Ledger, Courtney Love (above) and Sting. He claims his art education comes from tattooing teenage gang members in San Francisco in the 1990s in a studio in the Lower Haight district of San Francisco. "I'm just the dirty kid who snuck in the back door," Campbell told the New York Times.
Rock star ink
Another toast of New York, Thomas Hooper, charges thousands of dollars for his signature pieces. Hooper, a tattoo artist born in Bexhill-on-Sea in the UK, believes the difference between fine art and the cutting edge of modern tattooing has "virtually disappeared". Adorned - the name of his studio in New York - has been visited by inked-up rock star Lenny Kravitz and DJ Samantha Ronson. "A lot of my work is to do with our own mortality and what could be called our souls," Hooper told the Observer.
Mexican tattoo artist Dr. Lakra has also bewitched the New York art scene, recently exhibiting dozens of small ink-on-vellum drawings made in his Oaxaca studio, along with canvases and wall drawings. His work features faces, medical illustrations, African totems and plenty of naked women enacting scenes from porn magazines. Dr. Lakra also creates tattoo-like drawings that he inks on found objects like dolls, toys and girlie pictures culled from Fifties magazines.
Recently commissioned as one of Australia's official war artists, eX de Medici is a Canberra tattooist with a passion for the work of famous World War II artist Ivor Hele. De Medici visited the Solomon Islands for a fortnight in 2009, accompanying Australian troops, then produced a series of works combining military imagery with her intricate tattoo-art style. De Medici told the Sydney Morning Herald she turned to tattooing as a way to earn money "in the days when you couldn't earn a cracker as a contemporary artist". ·