How Tattoos Are Making It Into High Art Exhibits

Xavier in Stories

High Art auctions and exhibits showcasing tattoo art prove that tattoos are making it big into the fine arts scene.

Peter Mui Collection - Guernsey's
Peter Mui Collection - Guernsey's

Tattoos may be gradually losing the stigma that makes people think they're exclusive to rebels, people who don't work white collar jobs, and people who test positive for drugs and into something that's actually appreciated as art instead of marks. Like street art, tattoo art has found its place into the high art scene.

“If you look through art history, there’s always an art form that’s emerging that’s not as accepted,” says Virginia Museum of Fine Arts curator Lee Anne Hurt Chesterfeld.

Peter Mui Collection - Guernsey's
Peter Mui Collection - Guernsey's

Auction house Guernsey's, famous for its eccentricities (auctioning President John F. Kennedy’s underwear for one), displayed a collection of works from some of the world's finest tattoo artists to be offered between $50 to $50,000. Despite all the recognition and changing views toward tattoos, some artists and critics can't help but argue how they view tattoos as something “untouchable” and “outsider.”

In 1995, art critic Michael Kimmelman expressed how he thought tattoos were some of the most interesting entities in the art world because of their “outsider status.” While master tattooist, Horiyoshi III believes that his art can only be called art when they're inked on the skin—where they're meant to be all along. That's the only way the Japanese tattoo artist sees his work can really come alive. “This is why I never show my designs as so-called art,” he told the Japan Times in 2007.

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But all in all, we won't be able to put it any other way than Japanese American artist Takahiro Kitamura did: “I think a lot of the general public considers us artists, but I don’t think the fine art world knows what to do with us.” Kitamura is one of the artists who showcased his works in the Guernsey's exhibition.

“They can’t own us,” he adds.

Xavier

@Xavier

When she's not writing for Tattoodo, Xavier likes experimenting with art and organizing local music shows. We're kidding, she's probably asleep. Follow her on Instagram @claudia_strife

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