Tattoo London

An exhibition of tattoo inspired art, photography & film

Thursday 25th February 2016

Fitting into the events of this year's ongoing Punk.London celebrations, Tattoo London is an exhibition of tattoo inspired art, photography & film at The Museum Of London. With tattoos being long-associated with punk and other countercultural movements, the project sets out to present London's tattoo subculture in the manner and fashion it deserves. 

Tattooing in London has a long and surprising history, dating back to at least the early 17th century, long before Captain James Cook’s voyages to the Pacific. However, it wasn’t until the late 1880s that the first professional tattooist, Sutherland Macdonald, was making a living in the capital.

Matt Lodder from the University of Essex, who is researching a book on London’s tattoo history, said:

"Tattooing has been an important part of London's cultural and social fabric across several centuries; though its rich stories remain poorly understood by the uninitiated. The Museum of London’s exhibition brings together four key studios spanning four decades of work, and puts them into the contexts and chronology of the pioneers who came before them. It is a real pleasure for me as a historian of tattooing in London to have been able to help these four incredible artists to tell their stories as artists, and to place their ideas, their craft, their talents and their visual idiosyncrasies at the forefront of an exhibition in a way that has never been done in this city before."

The display comprises both historic and contemporary photographs that will sit alongside the new commissions from the four artists. Oral history interviews and a new short film will reveal what it means to be a London-based tattoo artist. 

Jen Kavanagh, curator for Tattoo London at the Museum of London, said:

“This is an exciting exhibition for the Museum of London. The collaboration with these four artists has meant that the ever-growing culture of tattooing in London is better understood, and we’re so thrilled to have collected a little insight into their amazing working lives. Tattooing has come a long way since the 17th century and is now a major phenomenon among today’s Londoners. We hope that this exhibition will appeal to existing and new visitors to the museum, offering them a rare glimpse into the fascinating life of a tattooist in the capital.”

Also on display will be newly commissioned artworks by tattooists from the featured studios: Lal Hardy at New Wave, Alex Binnie at Into You, Claudia de Sabe at Seven Doors and Mo Coppoletta at The Family Business.

Tattoo London is free to enter, and will run from 29 January until 8 May (2016) at The Museum Of London. 

Marking the 40th anniversary of Punk's explosion in 1976, Punk.London is a year-long programme of gigs, exhibitions and films looking back at the movement’s origins, as well as Punk's continuing legacy in the world today.

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