as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pigs Out, But Artist Sells Tattoo Off Man's Back

At ShContemporary, Shanghai's largest art fair, everyone is talking about something that didn't actually happen. Eight pigs, tattooed with Louis Vuitton logos and Walt Disney characters, were supposed to be exhibited as part of an artwork by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Chinese authorities banned the pig exhibition, Delvoye says, "not because of sanitation issues, not because of animal rights, not because of ideological considerations, not because there's something anti-communist, not because there's nudity in it — but this time it was not allowed because it was not art."

Instead, Delvoye is putting on display a Swiss man named Tim Steiner, whose back Delvoye has tattooed with a scene featuring the Virgin Mary. The tattoo on Steiner's back has been sold for almost $215,000 to a collector who has the right to remove it after he dies. Delvoye says bluntly that this is one yardstick that makes the tattoo an artwork, rather than just another tattoo.

"It's art because it got sold," Delvoye says.

Steiner is contractually bound to display his tattooed back at various events and functions, including ShContemporary, where he sits on a stool facing a wall so people can marvel at his back. He is a living canvas whose back will live on as artwork after his death, yet he denies that the concept is macabre. "If the project finishes the way it should, and the skin will be removed and properly framed, then I will exist forever, at least a part of me will, and I find that concept more exciting than morbid," Steiner says.

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