Found in every society, the tattoo is certainly not a recent practice. Ötzi had already covered the body with fifty-seven tattoos in 3,000 B.C. From this great "primitive" history, originating in Eastern, African and island societies, we have held onto the social role of the tattoo and its religious and mystical impact. In the West, they have been seen as a mark of infamy, criminality and as a circus attraction, then as a mark of identity for urban tribes, a medium for political statements. During the first half of the 20th century, tattooing developed within marginal circles, remaining a somewhat clandestine gesture until being over-exposed by the media.

The academic field firstly focused on the ethnological or anthropological values, before exploring the sociological angle and its different psychological meanings. Tattooists, Tattooed has chosen to move away from scientific observation to penetrate “the artistic power” and celebrate the creative, living and shifting dimension of the tattoo. Alongside a representation of the longevity, omnipresence and multivalence of tattooing practices around the world for many millennia, shown through rare artifacts, the work also pays tribute to the pioneers of the modern era, "heroes" responsible for its mutation. And, as this artistic pathway is one of the most dynamic of our time, as it continues to evolve in spite of all the upheavals already experienced from within, a voice has been given to its primary representatives, the tattooists, who protect this art at all costs. In this context, two types of contemporary studio works have been produced.

Firstly, thirteen silicone volumes, thirteen body "extracts", prints molded on living models, which many tattooists have pricked in the strict exercise of their art: either by machine or using traditional tools, according to their everyday practice. As a mise-en-abyme, virgin canvases were entrusted to other tattooists, in the traditional application known as the “body suit”. The artists involved are internationally renowned. All active continents are represented: Europe, America, Asia and Oceania. Many have created a style that has since gained a following. All are respected by the field for their contribution to the cause. Finally, a series of photographs presents the two latest trends in modern tattooing, a selection of graphic aesthetics to anchor the third millennium.


304 pages • 19,6 x 25,5 cm • 220 illustrations • 45€
Copublished by musée du quai Branly / Actes Sud 2014
ISBN: 9782330021481