Tatoueurs, tatoués


Drawing, mixed media

Tatoueurs, tatoués

Past: May 6, 2014 → October 18, 2015

Tattoo explores the world of tattooing and offers a unique approach to this ancestral practice, presenting 300 historical and contemporary works from a variety of countries. For the first time, an exhibition presents the artistic dimension of tattooing and its history throughout human culture from its first appearance. The musée du quai Branly reflects the growing interest given in our contemporary societies to this art, which is both a subject of fascination and of identity.

Musee du quai branly traditional japanese tattoo martin hladik medium
Artiste Inconnu, Tatouage traditionnel japonais Courtesy of Musée du quai Branly — Photo © Martin Hladik

While tattooing has a rich technical and aesthetic history, which has already been thoroughly studied and represented, tattooists and the tattooed act as spokespeople for the art on a daily basis. For the first time, a major exhibition is dedicated to tattooing as an artistic medium, paying homage to the contemporary pioneers; these artists who have developed the art of tattooing but whose role has never been sufficiently appreciated. For the event, the exhibition’s curators, Anne & Julien, have employed an extensive network to unite artworks by the most important tattooartists.

Created specifically for the exhibition, 13 "volumes" — prototypes reproducing parts of the human body in extremely realistic fashion — are made from an experimental material and tattooed by masters of the art of tattooing, including tattoo artists Tin-Tin (France), Horiyoshi III (Japan), Filip Leu (Switzerland), Jack Rudy (USA), Xed LeHead (UK) and Chimé (Polynesia).

Musee du quai branly marc garanger portrait de femme algerienne 1960 medium
Marc Garanger, Portrait de femme Algérienne, 1960 Photographie Courtesy of the artist & Musée du quai Branly — Collection de l’artiste

Also presented are 19 body-suits; tattoo designs painted onto kakemonos by tattooists who combine a profound respect for the rules of their art with resolutely modern inspiration and the desire to present genuine uniqueness in their work.

The volumes and body-suits act as a contemporary thread running through the exhibition, highlighting the networks of influence in tattooing throughout the world.

Musee du quai branly yann black tatouage sur moulage en silicone 2011 medium
Yann Black, Motif de tatouage sur un bras masculin, 2013 Tatouage créé sur moulage en silicone de corps humains Courtesy of the artist & Musée du quai Branly — Photo © Thomas Duval

“Several phenomena visible through observation of the current status of the practice enable us to state that it is in a crucial stage of development. For a long time, Western tattooists and those tattooed displayed no awareness of ’beauty’ as it is understood by those skilled in the art. With its connection to the so-called ’lower levels’ of the populace, the act was coarse and its virtue lay only in the audacity of the act. These were the first chapters of its modern history. Then, in the late 19th century, a handful of tattooists imposed the title of “tattoo artists” to express the true dimensions of their work. This instinctive term rejected any distinction between ’high art’ and ’popular art’; a distinction that often leads to a refusal to recognise in the margins a value so easily granted to their opposites. Yet those margins do not complain; they thrive: relentless, obsessed, the tattooists continued to innovate and improve their practice. A proliferation of exchanges between professionals from different continents resulted, revealing the common core of this global fraternity: drawing, composition and technique. The artistic aspect of this contemporary history has not yet been thoroughly investigated. It is this territory that our exhibition will explore, by offering a new light on tattooing: “the artistic flow”, “the artist’s eye”, “the creative urge” — where the importance of international networks complements scientific observation."

— Anne & Julien, exhibition curators

07 Paris 7 Zoom in 07 Paris 7 Zoom out

37, quai Branly

75007 Paris

T. 01 56 61 70 00


Alma – Marceau

Opening hours

Tuesday & Wednesday, Sunday, 11 AM – 7 PM
Thursday – Saturday, 11 AM – 9 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €9.00 — Concessions €7.00

Billet jumelé (collections permanentes et expositions temporaires) : tarif plein 11 € / tarif réduit 9 €