Kunstmuseum Bonn Why visitors can now get tattoos on the Museum Mile

Bonn · The Bonn Kunstmuseum (Museum of Art) is presenting an exhibition on the history of body art. Anyone who wants to can get a tattoo right in the museum. What is it all about?

Patrick Electric (centre), Trash Tristan (left) and Manuela Sinning from the tattoo event at the Kunstmuseum with templates that they will put on your skin on Wednesday and Saturday.

Patrick Electric (centre), Trash Tristan (left) and Manuela Sinning from the tattoo event at the Kunstmuseum with templates that they will put on your skin on Wednesday and Saturday.

Foto: Meike Böschemeyer

The shoulder of the beautiful empress Sisi was adorned with an anchor, England's King Edward VII had a Christian cross tattooed on his arm, King George V and the Russian Tsar had a fearsome dragon inked under their skin. And Maori body art is full of symbolism. Tattoos are by no means a modern fad. People have always decorated their bodies with pictures, symbols or characters. Today, tattoos have become part of mainstream society. While one person's back is covered with a colourful tropical forest, another's arm is adorned with the names of their children.

"There is no favourite among the motifs," says someone who should know: Patrick Hildenbrand has been active as a tattoo artist in Bonn for years. "There is no such thing as a typical customer either," he adds. "Men, women, old, young. Everything is there." After all, there are enough role models. Hardly any pop star or internationally successful athlete goes "without" any more.

While many earlier motifs can resemble children's drawings, and were created not infrequently in dubious port taverns and after copious amounts of alcohol, there is now an upmarket tattoo scene. Customers can now choose from a variety of filigree designs that also have an artistic appeal.

That is why tattoos now also belong in art galleries, and it is why the Kunstmuseum Bonn is focusing on body art in the series "Zwischenspiele" ("Interludes") under the title "Tattoo Flash" (7-10 June; opening hours 11 a.m.-6 p.m., tattoos on site: Wed 11.30 a.m.-8.30 p.m., Sat 11.30 a.m.-5.30 p.m.). "We are also opening up our spaces to other art formats," Stefanie Kreuzer, the museum's curator of contemporary art explains. "With interludes, we are presenting unconventional exhibition formats," she adds. These include the fields of literature, fashion, music, performance or theatre, which deviate from conventional exhibitions as well as museum formats.

Visitors can choose from around 40 tattoo motifs

Patrick Hildenbrand has organised the campaign. Not only has he put together pictures and posters that show how motifs have developed over the decades, but together with his Cologne colleague (Trash Tristan) he is offering visitors the chance to get tattooed on the spot on 7 and 10 June. Visitors can choose from around 40 motifs on the two days. "We have deliberately divided the exhibition into four sequences to present the development," he says. "In doing so, we want to give this metier an art-historical treatment." Thus, he shows wooden matrices with which pilgrims in the Middle Ages had Christian symbols carved into their skin, gives an overview of the favourites of sailors, prisoners and the underworld, and presents the motifs of high society from culture, society and, indeed, royal houses. He pays special attention to Japanese originals. There, people would not only choose individual images for this special body decoration, but always pursue a total work of art, which is complemented in the course of a lifetime.

The "tramp stamp" is experiencing a revival

According to Hildenbrand, classic designs are currently most in demand. "Today, we can offer traditional patterns in addition to modern illustrations. For example, a granddaughter could get the exact tattoo that her grandfather already had. We can always find the corresponding template somewhere," assures the expert from Bonn. Stencils from the 1990s are currently experiencing a revival. His colleagues are once again getting more orders for so-called tramp stamps - symmetrical tattoos on the lower back that were popular in the noughties. "Especially from young women," Hildenbrand knows. "They also like to choose filigree drawings and writings."

In his opinion, the fear of colours is unfounded. "The studios only use materials that are approved in the EU," he asserts. But there is no standardised training for the trade. So how does a customer find a trustworthy tattoo artist? "If you are looking for a good studio, you should take your time. It's best to ask friends and acquaintances and get information on the premises," he advises all new customers. You should also take your time when choosing a motif. "Don't rush into anything," he advises. After all, these youthful sins are not so easy to get rid of.

(Original text: Gabriele Immenkeppel; Translation: Jean Lennox)

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