Tattoo art in the past and today. Interesting gallery

Curators study the phenomenon of tattooing and its current popularity with anthropological sensitivity. By highlighting contemporary phenomena in the long and rich history of body tattoos, they show a coherent story that has continued from the beginning of social formations to the modern era, when popular culture tattoos became a form of artistic expression.

The gallery, which presents a range of tattoos found in the traditions of ethnic groups from different parts of the world and those created today, showcases the timeless impulse that generates the need for permanent body decoration. It also identifies a set of jobs that appear sustainable over thousands of years.

From stigma to beauty

– The part devoted to contemporary tattoos begins with the stage of the great voyages, when sailors began to bring this phenomenon mainly to Europe. Then very vague, belonging to marginal groups, in fact treated more as a stigma, a stigma. However, throughout history, especially in the second half of the twentieth century, this phenomenon began to change. The outlook has changed a lot. And so we get to the point where the stigma disappears and we enter the beauty category, envisioning tattoos as a work of art — says Alexandra Garris, the gallery’s co-curator.

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permanent mark

Today, tattoos have very strong signals of identity. We want to emphasize our individuality, create our own image, a set of messages that we want to show to others. In the past, for example, in subcultures it was shown through clothing, hair, behavior and special language. Now there is also a permanent mark which is tattoos. We want to be more private because of that. Of course, it is now a common phenomenon that this exclusivity translates more into an individual style. A lot of new types of tattoos are being created, which are more and more extreme, depending on the individual style of the tattoo artist already on the border of the craftsman and artist. We have reached the height of this fashion, because it is difficult to be a very special person when there are so many tattoos – adds Katarzyna Cygler.

Upper Paleolithic amulet

Can we tell when the first tattoo was made? – We are not able to spend the moment when tattoos were introduced into our habits, into our routines, but we can assume that those were times very far away. We do not have direct evidence, unfortunately, we know it only from various types of indirect artifacts, resulting, for example, from the study of the decorations that appear in the art of the Upper Paleolithic. We can also find such motifs in tattoos that have survived to this day, for example, in North Africa. From here we conclude that tattoo art is really very old. The use of tattoos as an amulet or a sign that cannot be lost or stolen, which is always with us, makes their functionality and use very alluring at the level of the original composition of different cultures, assures Piotr Dąbrowski, co-curator of the exhibition.

Healing and prison tattoo

In the broadcast, the three guests talk about tattoos discovered more than 3,600 BC (possibly medical), but also about a modern prison tattoo. The curators stress that the purpose of the exhibition is to show and tame the complexity of the tattoo phenomenon. The exhibition is based on images obtained from all over the world – from photographers, travelers, tattooists, photojournalists, collectors and experts dealing with the study of this phenomenon and from the collections of recognized museums. They are supplemented with unique things: preparations (tattooed skins more than 100 years old), paintings, Japanese woodcarvings, films, crafts related to tattoo technology (such as ethnic tattoo tools, stencils, “jail handles”).


Tattoo art in the world through the centuries (3 am)


Program title: Three before noon
Lead: Katarzina Siegler
Guests: Alexandra Garish and Pyotr Dibrovsky (curators “Tattoo. Symbol, imprint, beauty”)
Date of issue: May 17 2022
broadcast time: 10.40

mat. Promotional / MK

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