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Photos: Field Museum's 'Tattoo' Exhibit Illuminates An Overlooked Art

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 19, 2016 4:39PM

Tattoos are personal. They're an ancient art form—wildly popular today, yet sometimes controversial—but it's rare for the public to get an education on the art form itself. That's about to change for those of us lucky enough to visit The Field Museum starting this Friday, as the Tattoo exhibit opens to the public.

Tattoo, a special exhibition first developed for Paris' musée du quai Branly, features an impressive collection of artifacts from the very beginning of the art to the beautiful, unique forms it's taking as technology progresses.

Tattoo offers a far-reaching look at the often overlooked art form. The exhibit explores more than five thousand years of creative skin-marking practice from around the globe, spanning from ancient Egypt to the modern era; and it starts to feel more and more like a gallery showing as you progress through its corridors. There are beautifully tattooed silicone forms, amazing artifacts from each corner of the world that follow tattooing's 5000-year timeline, and absolutely stunning photography, featuring some of the most intricate, amazing tattoos we've ever seen.

“The central message of the exhibition is about human creativity," Alaka Wali, curator of North American Anthropology, said in a release earlier this year. "It’s important to understand creativity’s different manifestations and not dismiss cultural practices and art forms because they were somehow stigmatized. The exhibition is going beyond the stereotype of tattoos to explore their aesthetics and artistry across cultures."

There's also a tattoo shop inside the exhibit—something that not even the original exhibit in France was able to accomplish. The shop, which is a work of art in itself, will be manned each weekend by one of six local artists, including Joel Molina of Chicago Tattoo and Lance Lloyd of Taylor Street Tattoo who was at the gun during Tuesday's press opening. The roster of high-profile artists also includes Tine DeFiore (Black Oak Tattoo), Stephanie Brown (the recently shuttered Butterfat Studios) and Zach Stuka (Deluxe Tattoo).

Spots for tattooing at the Field's shop filled up fast, but if you'd still like a chance to get inked in exhibit, you can sign up for the waitlist. It looks like it’s flash only, but that’s understandable considering the circumstances. Appointments cost $250 and include admission to "Tattoo." Check out booking and bio details here. And for those just curious, the shop offers a near-360-degree view of the artists in action

Tattoo represents an ambitious and thoroughly successful attempt by the Field Museum to educate people on the anthropological importance of tattooing, its global significance and how tattoos function as beautiful pieces of art and storytelling.

Tattoo opens to the public on Friday, Oct. 21 and will run through April 30, 2017. For more information, and to get tickets, click here.