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TATTOO: British Tattoo Art Revealed

Art Exhibition
  • Suitable for all ages

From ruffians to royalty; from sailors to socialites; from pilgrims to punks: tattoos have been etched into bodies throughout British history. Now a stunning new exhibition is coming to Torre Abbey Museum, which promises to get under the skin of this worldwide phenomenon.

Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed is a genuinely ground-breaking and comprehensive history of British tattooing, featuring cutting edge designers, leading academics and major private collectors. This is the largest gathering of real objects and original tattoo artwork ever assembled in the UK featuring over 400 original artworks, photographs and historic artefacts.

Challenging pre-conceptions and celebrating tattooing’s rich artistic heritage, the exhibition proved hugely successful when it opened at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall following two years of extensive research by the curators at this acclaimed Falmouth attraction. The exhibition at Torre Abbey Museum is the first stop on a nationwide tour.

It is estimated that about one in five of the UK population as a whole is tattooed and this figure rises to one in three for young adults. And yet, whilst the visibility of tattooing in contemporary culture may feel like something new, tattoos and tattoo art have always held a significant place in Britain’s history and historical imagination.

The exhibition explores this history in depth and shows that while the word tattoo may have come into the English language following Captain Cook’s voyage, this was not the start of the story of British tattooing.

While showcasing the rich maritime heritage of tattoos, the exhibition also shows how people from all areas of society have always been tattooed.

As part of the exhibition, Torre Abbey will working with both local tattoo studios and members of the body art community to collect photographs of tattoos and the stories behind them. This will help build up a social history of this art form in the area. With such a rich maritime, fishing and naval heritage in the area, this should also prove a fascinating insight into both the local history and ongoing passion for ink art.

Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed is curated by the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, an independent Museum based in Falmouth.

We are looking for volunteers to help out during the exhibition. Should this be of interest, please email: abbeylearning@torbay.gov.uk

Entry to the exhibition is included in the regular ticket price.

‘Tattooing is a magical, romantic, exciting and often misunderstood art-form’.
Dr Matt Lodder

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