Five must-see works at National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s British Tattoo Art exhibition

Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed is at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall from 17 Mar 2017 until 7 Jan 2018. There’s free entry with a National Art Pass.


The 100 Hands Project

  • Photo by Luke Hayes courtesy of National Maritime Museum Cornwall

Tattoos are a living and uniquely three-dimensional form of art. This innovative installation literally brings the art off the gallery wall to create a 'sculptural map' of British tattoo art today. The 100 Hands Project, curated by Alice Snape of Things & Ink magazine, is based around one hundred silicone arms, each tattooed with an original design by leading tattoo artists from across the UK. Taken together, the quality and diversity of the work is astonishing.


The Sailor Knight banner

  • Photo by Paul Abbitt courtesy of Neil Hopkin-Thomas

This traveling tattoo banner is a rare surviving artefact from the 1920s and demonstrates exquisite artistic talent. It’s a precious relic of tattoo art’s rich history and forms part of what is the largest collection of original British tattoo objects ever displayed to the general public.


Aimée Cornwell's commission

  • Photo by Paul Abbitt courtesy of National Maritime Museum Cornwall

This work by Aimée Cornwell, a second-generation artist and rising star in the tattoo world, illustrates how tattooing is breaking down different artistic boundaries, and represents her own form of fantasia. It is one of three major contemporary art commissions from artists working in three very different tattoo traditions. Each has created a unique design on a hyper-realistic body sculpture, which speaks to the historic artifacts and artworks around it. In addition to Cornwell’s piece, Tihoti Faara Barff's work celebrates the modern revival of Tahitian tattooing, while Matt Houston's commission is a heroic celebration of the sailor tattoo.


A pair of tattooed eyes preserved human skin

  • Photograph © Gemma Angel, courtesy of the Science Museum, London

With pieces like this, Dr Gemma Angel, (Research Fellow, Cornell University) will provide an insight into the darker side of tattoo collections with a rare display of tattooing on preserved human skin from the Wellcome Collection's medical skin collection, on loan to the Science Museum (Science Museum Object no.s A747 & A754).


Master tattoo artist Lal Hardy's recreated studio

  • Photo by Luke Hayes courtesy of NMMC / Lal Hardy

Tattoo artist Lal Hardy has lent some of his personal collection of tattoo memorabilia to the exhibition. Considered the 'king of tattooists', Hardy is known for his tattoos of the punk generation and still runs a hugely popular tattoo parlour in London. Lal's interest in tattooing began with his family, who had tattoos, and was further ignited by the Teddy Boy & Punk Rock revival during the 70s/80s. Lal first opened the doors to New Wave Tattoo in 1979 and is still tattooing there today.

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