British Tattoo Art Revealed at M Shed

tattoo arms

This landmark exhibition sheds new light on an artform seen on one in five Brits

Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed is an impressive new study of one of the most overlooked of modern art forms. This groundbreaking exhibition considers the history of tattooing in Britain and opens this weekend for a three-month run until June 16.

The exhibition features work from famous designers, leading academics and exhibits from major private collectors. Tattooing has a long and controversial history and this – the largest gathering of real tattooing artwork in the UK ever – intends to challenge those preconceptions and celebrate the astonishingly rich heritage of the form that has left an indelible mark on the nation.

At the last count, one in five of us Brits have tattoos. It is no surprise then that Britain is one of the most tattoo-ed nations in the world. From kings and prime ministers to footballers and hippies, every social class in the country has taken to them and from 2000 to 2010, the number of parlours in Britain increased five-fold.

We might once have considered tattoos the preserve of sailors, ruffians and vagabonds, but did you know that George V, Jennie Churchill (Winston’s mother) and Samantha Cameron (wife of the former PM and the daughter of a baronet) have all sported a tattoo? When the Romans first invaded Britain, they discovered the Celts covered in decorative paint. They even became known across Europe as Pretani – meaning ‘tattooed’ in Celtic. Pilgrims and explorers discovered indigenous people around the world with tattoos and brought their discoveries back to a fascinated public.

The exhibition features over 400 original artworks, photographs and historic artefacts and to make it representative of Bristol’s rich tattoo culture, M Shed have collected tattoo stories from Bristol’s tattoo artists. The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to display original artwork from private collections that are not otherwise seen on display like the previously unseen private archive that includes the incredible real story of Britain’s pioneering female tattoo artist, Jessie Knight.

On Thursday 16 May, M Shed will open after-hours for Tattoo Live – an unforgettable evening of live music and live tattooing.

Where: M Shed

When: March 16–June 16,£6/£5


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