The realm of Fine Art carries an air of prestige and respect, usually reserved for traditionally accepted art forms such as painting and sculpture. Among these esteemed art forms, tattooing often doesn't find its place.
However, the question arises - why not?
Could it be the inaccessibility of tattooing as a commodity in the commercial art market that hinders its recognition as Fine Art?
- Tattooing meets the requirements of technical skill, historical tradition, and emotional connection traditionally associated with Fine Art.
- The commercial art world often values monetary worth over artistic value, influencing what is recognized as Fine Art.
- The intimate relationship between tattoos and their bearers makes them difficult to commodify, which may affect their recognition as Fine Art.
- Attempts to collect tattoo art often fail to capture its true essence, as tattoos require living skin to fully express their artistic value.
- Tattoos have established a powerful legitimacy among their enthusiasts, raising the question of whether recognition as Fine Art is necessary or desirable.
Evaluating Art Forms and the Role of Economics
There are numerous art forms like graffiti, dance, stained glass, graphic design, etc., that demonstrate an amalgamation of technical mastery, historical significance, and emotional evocation. These are the pillars that define Fine Art. Yet, they often don't receive the same respect. The distinction between art and Fine Art, it seems, boils down to economic value. The commercial art world, which amassed a total value of $45-billion in 2017, is much an industry as any other. Fine Art, thus, becomes an investment - the artist's name often carrying more value than their work.
The Unique Nature of Tattoos
Tattoo art, however, resists this commodification. It lives and dies with its bearer, making it nearly impossible to sell or collect in traditional ways. As tattoos become more mainstream and their cultural stigma wanes, enthusiasts are finding creative ways to collect this art form. Some turn their bodies into galleries, embodying the term "tattoo collectors". Unlike traditional Fine Art collectors, these enthusiasts form a deeply personal bond with the artwork and the artist.
Museums and Tattoos
Attempts have been made by museums to display tattoo art. Life-sized photographs of tattoos have been exhibited, and drawings made by renowned tattoo artists have been auctioned. These drawings, though beautiful, fail to capture the essence of a tattoo - they aren't in human skin, they don't breathe or age as a tattoo does.
The Living Canvas
True tattoo art can only thrive on the living canvas of human skin. Efforts to own and collect tattoos without this crucial component appear to be attempts to fit this unique art form into traditional art collection norms, seemingly missing the point of what makes tattooing special.
Preserving Tattooed Skin
More extreme examples of tattoo collection include preserving tattooed skin after the bearer's death. This approach raises questions about the lengths collectors are willing to go to own a piece of tattoo art without committing their own skin to the process. However, even in preservation, a tattoo loses the vibrant life that makes it a unique art form.
Why Must Tattoos Be Fine Art?
Fine Art has long been regarded as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. However, this status seems to be increasingly tied to the financial worth of the art piece, rather than its inherent aesthetic or emotional value. Tattoos, undoubtedly an art form embodying technical skill, creativity, and tradition, don't need the label of Fine Art to be considered legitimate. As millions of people continue to appreciate and love tattoos, one might question if striving for Fine Art status, with its focus on monetary value, is necessary at all.
The debate over whether tattoos should be recognized as Fine Art highlights an overarching concern in the art world: the correlation between artistic value and economic worth. Tattoos embody the essential elements of an art form – technical mastery, historical tradition, and the ability to evoke profound emotions. However, the necessity to exist on living skin sets them apart from conventional art forms, making them difficult to commodify. This characteristic, rather than being a drawback, enhances their uniqueness and should be celebrated. Tattoos already possess a robust legitimacy among their millions of admirers. Perhaps, instead of pushing for recognition in the Fine Art world, the focus should remain on appreciating the unique blend of personal and artistic expression that tattoos offer.
Cryogenics, NFT-tech, and life-like holograms anyone?
Paul Park, The Xtreme Team
For more information on our sets, please take a look at our piece on Xtreme Inks: Artist Collections.