Tattoos As A Form Of Art: Changing Ideals In The 21st Century

Tattoos as a Form of Art, by Sally Phillips, Guest Contributor

Photo by Timothy Paul Smith on Unsplash

When you think of the word art, what immediately comes to mind? Probably not body-art or tattoos. Yet tattoos have always been a form of artistic expression that has grown in popularity, and not just with celebrities. Guest writer Sally Phillips shares some thoughts about tattoos in the 21st Century.

Tattoos As A Form Of Art: Changing Ideals In The 21st Century

By Sally Phillips

As the stigma surrounding tattoos fades into the past, more and more people are turning towards the trend in order to express themselves, their ideas and opinions permanently on their bodies. About 38% of young people ages 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo, signaling a shift in the times towards a tendency that treats tattoos like fine art. Tattoo lovers visit their favorite artists, request a specific piece from them, and collect pieces from a variety of people and places. This, for some, is modern art collection at its finest.

Where do tattoos fit within the art world?

Tattoos, while a once-subversive art form, date back more than 5,200 years ago. The infamous Iceman even had tatted hands. However, they haven’t always been so popular in society. Up until recent years, tattoos held negative connotations within most modern communities and even within the art community. In 1995, a New York Times art critic, however, argued that tattoos were most interesting to the art world because of their “outsider status,” and compared them to “self-taught art, prison art, and art of the insane.” Nowadays, you’ll see pretty much every celebrity with at least one tattoo and even rappers with their entire faces full of tattoos.

When does a tattoo become art?

While tattoos aren’t necessarily museum-worthy pieces of art, they are still , in their own right,  artistic. They are permanent expressions of a feeling, attitude or sentiment that someone wishes to commemorate, and instead of using a canvas they use their own skin. If the purpose of art is to challenge a point of view, make a statement or simply to commemorate an event or memory, then it seems that tattoos are most certainly a modern form of fine art. To take it a step further, it appears that, as tattoo artists are able to engage in modern technologies that allow them to progress in their techniques and styles, the art form becomes more intricate and visually appealing.

Understanding art in a modern society

Any form of art is subjective, and whether or not tattoos can be considered a form of 21st-century art really depends on who you’re asking. Like performance art, tattoos are something that can’t be “owned” or “displayed” in a museum or building, and that is something that the art community will have to accept as more and more forms of art gain popularity.

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