“Tattoo,” an exhibition examining the ancient art of marking skin with ink that spans cultures, continents, and its evolution over time, opens this weekend at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA). “Tattoo” offers unique insight into this often misunderstood form of wearable art through the context of more than 5,000 years. The exhibit opens to the public Sunday but NHMLA members can visit the museum today for a members only preview.
“Tattoo” is beautifully presented in dark galleries that comes alive with light projections and videos of tattoo ceremonies; interview footage of luminary practitioners and exquisitely lit detailed drawings and paintings. The exhibit features specially commissioned, tattooed silicone forms which are fascinating; tastefully presented as art objects, though just a bit creepy because they are so realistically rendered. The hand-drawn art, the technology and tools of the trade offer the visitor a unique opportunity to understand the strikingly personal art of tattoos.
NHMLA added about 30% more content to the original traveling exhibition, enriching the story by featuring the role of the Los Angeles area, and Long Beach Pike in particular, played in the developing in the evolving tattoo scene.
“We are embracing our role as a museum of, for and with Los Angeles,” said Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga, President and Director of NHMLA. “This is the birthplace of several pivotal tattoo movements, including the Long Beach Pike scene and the black and gray style. “Tattoo” provides a special opportunity for our community to explore an often misunderstood art form and shed light on the history and traditions of tattooing around the world and right here at home.”
For Gretchen Backer, NHMLA’s new Vice president of Exhibits, “Tattoo” was opportunity engage a new audience at the museum. Baker came from the Field Museum in Chicago where she had been part of the team that presented “Tattoo” and was looking forward to building on that experience and making it unique for NHMLA’s visitors.
“Many of the tattoo artists expressed deep appreciation for the recognition of their work as well as the presentation of the historic context for younger artists,” Baker told the Buzz. For the visitor, especially one not familiar with tattoos, there is an interesting tension between the museum’s scientific and cultural presentation and the subject itself, which makes the exhibit all the more intriguing.
Visitors will discover the West Coast’s pivotal role in both the American traditional style of tattooing and in tattoo today and see the contributions of dozes of LA artists – past and present. Including a focus on the work and importance of female tattooists. Artists will be featured in NHMLA’s tattoo parlor located inside the exhibition and visible to visitors. Appointments are already sold out, however, there is a waiting list for appointments from February through April available online.
NHMLA will also present Tattoo related public events and programs throughout the full run of the exhibition, including tattoo parlor demonstrations on weekends and during the popular First Fridays series February through April.
- A Thursday evening lecture series titled Tattoo: Stories of Identity and Culture will feature legendary tattoo artists in conversation, along with late exhibition hours, live tattoo demonstrations and a cash bar. Panelists will include black-and-gray all-stars Jack Rudy and Freddy Negrete.
- In November, indigenous women who have taken up facial tattoo practices of their elders in March and a special conversation with female tattoo artists Margot Mifflin, Kari Barba, and Roxx Two Spirit moderated by Cara Santa Maria in April.
- In January, the NHMLA will host a special Tattoo edition of the Moth Radio Hour with extended hours and tattoo demonstrations. A fully functioning Tattoo Parlor will be up and running within the exhibition, with live tattoo demos taking place and the opportunity to make an appointment and be tattooed within the exhibition on weekends. A calendar of exhibition related events is available upon request. For an updated timeline, please visit nhm.org
The exhibition, which runs through April 15, 2018, was created and developed by the Musée du quai Branly –Jacques Chirac in Paris. The NHMLA presentation of Tattoo concludes an international tour at stops includingToronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90007
Timed tickets for Tattoo are on sale at nhm.org and are separate from general
admission. Tattoo tickets cost $12 for adults, seniors (62+) and students with valid ID;
$6 for children (3-12); and are free for Museum members and children age 2 and
under. For tickets visit nhm.org.
Tickets purchased online guarantee admittance to the exhibition. Limited same-day timed
tickets are available each day at the door.
Groups of 10 or more people receive discounted rates on Museum admission. Group tickets
available now by calling 213.763.3218 or by emailing [email protected] for reservations and
Tickets to the exhibition are free for NHM members. To become a member, visit