The exhibition is developed with 5 sections:
An indelible legacy, tattooing belongs to the common heritage of most of humanity. In Europe, the practice was repressed by Christianity and, until the 19th century, it principally persisted as a means of marking criminals. However, from the 15th century, during the period of great explorations, tattooing was (re)discovered by Western travellers in Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Journeying almost exclusively on the skin of sailors and adventurers, the tattoo lost the assimilation function that it fulfilled in societies outside Europe. In the West, this global practice settled into the fringes of society, while in the overseas territories, the colonial authorities actively repressed the traditional practice of tattooing for religious, magic and initiation purposes. At the start of the 19th century in Europe, tattooing, henceforth a matter of choice, became the underground language of a kaleidoscope of individualities brought together around a practice defying generalization and laying claim to its marginalization. Tattooing once again spread. It contaminated the street, the prison world, as well as a milieu marked by widespread eccentricity: that of the performing arts.
If tattooing emerged as a form of artistic expression, it was thanks to the circulation of practices between tattoo artists in Europe, Asia and North America, interested in technical and artistic innovations. In 1891, the invention of the electric tattoo machine by the American Samuel O’Reilly(?-1908) considerably increased the possibilities of tattooing and favoured its dissemination.
The effervescence of American tattooing owed a great deal to the observation of the Japanese irezumi: American and Japanese tattoo artists travelled from one shore of the Pacific to the other to trade their secrets. During the 20th century, the international dialogue between activists grew stronger. Following the model of tattooed Japanese who gathered in societies from 1902, tattoo artists got together in clubs, the first of which was created in 1953 in Bristol, in the United Kingdom. The first international tattooing convention, held in 1976 in Houston, in the United States, welcomed tattoo artists and tattooed from the entire planet. These meetings marked the beginning of the global reconstruction of tattooing.
In Asia – apart from Japan – and Oceania, tattooing was very much abandoned from the XVIII century under the combined effects of colonization, evangelization and changes in the societies. With the exception of a very few islands, tattooing and the customs with which it was associated fell by the wayside. Starting in the 1980s, through travelling tattoo artists, indigenous practitioners met an international clientele and aspiring tattoo artists from every origin, clearly bent on reviving these ancient traditions. We are currently witnessing an unprecedented renewal of traditional tattooing. Globalized and very dynamic, the Samoan Islands are its centre of expertise and reference point.
具藝術能量的標竿人物突顯出當代刺青的進化特質，新的流派正持續不斷湧現。1977年，刺青藝術家卡特萊特(Charlie Cartwright)與魯迪(Jack Rudy)推翻了細節與陰影技法表現的限制。這項流傳於洛杉磯幫派中的獨特寫實風格技法，從墨西哥裔美國人特有的奇卡娜(chicana)文化中那些源自美、墨兩地精緻與流行文化的圖案語彙裡汲取主題。在中國與台灣，刺青自2000年代起再度興起，刺青師們的靈感來自娛樂產業中的流行文化及充斥其中的影像(漫畫、電玩、電影)，也來自廣褒浩瀚的中國歷史圖像遺產。在歐洲，於此同時，抽象與書寫形式則成為探索某一特定前衛風格的主題與材料。
Markers of the artistic dynamism characterizing the evolution of contemporary tattooing, new schools are constantly emerging. In 1977, the tattoo artists Charlie Cartwright and Jack Rudy pushed back the limits of detail and shading. This specific technique of the realistic style of Los Angeles gangs draws its subjects from the chicana culture with its graphic vocabulary taken from American-Mexican learned and popular cultures. In China, from the 2000s, the practice of tattooing has re-emerged. Its practitioners find inspiration in both the pop culture of the entertainment industry with its flow of images (mangas, video games, cinema) and the vast heritage of Chinese historical iconography. In Europe, at the same time, abstraction and the graphic form have become subjects and materials to explore for a determined avant garde.
隨著刺青藝術家賓尼(Alex Binnie)、柯利(Curly)及勒黒(Xed LeHead)等以新風格帶領刺青邁入第三個千年。今日刺青可分為兩派：有些是重新詮釋歷史題材，偏好日本「入墨」風格，或美國舊式派別、俄國古拉格監獄刺青的粗放脈絡，或歐式的「生澀」(brut)線條。另一派則形塑了跳脫現有規範的美學，探索與平面藝術連結的可能性，以文字造型、影像畫素、框格與圖表創造出另類主題，呈顯新的構圖，也愈形抽象。若說後者的藝術哲學並未直接奠基於前輩大師們的遺產，前者仍受到過往的影響。不論如何，兩種流派在過去10年來已表現無以撼動的決心，致力革新刺青及其規範，並提出新的美學概念。
Following the styles launched by the tattoo artists Alex Binnie, Curly and Xed LeHead, a new generation has brought tattooing into the third millennium. Two schools can be discerned nowadays: some tattoo artists reinterpret historical genres, preferring to the Japanese irezumi, or to the American old school, the wild vein of Russian gulag tattooing or the European “brut” line. Others formulate aesthetics that are freed from current codes to explore the possibilities linked to graphic arts, in which typography, pixels, frames and diagrams bring out other motifs and compositions appear, going as far as abstraction. If the latter school does not directly base its artistic philosophy on the legacy of the great master tattooers, the former remains influenced by the past. However, both schools, during the last decade, have expressed an unshakable determination to renew tattooing and its codes to propose a new aesthetic.