Art for Keeps


Friday, April 11, 2008

At Art Basel Miami, real ink tattoo designs by top-notch artists were offered up for sale, and are impossible to resell. Tania Ketenjian followed collector Ronnie Pirovino through the acquisition process.

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Tania Ketenjian

Comments [12]

Margaret from Astoria, NY

My tattoo is fairly boring--it's a pink peony--and I give kudos to the artist who did it, Mike Bellamy at Red Rocket Tattoo ( for treating it with the same care as any of his work (and for letting me interrogate him about being a tattoo artist while he did it so I could distract myself).

I got my tattoo because sometimes I find it hard to look at my body and think I'm in any way beautiful. That flower (and peonies are my favorite kind) nestled under my left breast is something that will always be beautiful, a part of my body that I can always come back to even if I look on the rest of myself with something less than admiration. It's personal. It's private. It's for me and no one else.

Lately, about six months after I got my tattoo, I've been thinking about expanding it. Part of the reason is that I've been regretting not letting Mike (who's also an extraordinary painter: do something more creative than just a plain pink peony. Part of it is because I'd like it to be more personal, and incorporate some designs that I think are beautiful and that have already stood the test of time for a century or more (like the pattern engraved on Old Maryland silver, or the pattern on Royal Copenhagen blue fluted china).

I want it to be more distinct, more me. In a way, I suppose, I'm not trying to collect art. I'm trying to be it.

Apr. 15 2008 10:30 PM
Amelia from Providence

The reactions by some against any marking of the body is interesting to me. Thinking that tattoos are unsightly is fine and valid, and I don't mean to discount or argue against it. I just want to ask those who think tattoos are ugly how they formed their opinion.

It's just that I wonder about American cultural ideas of the "purity of the body". For thousands of years, humans across the world - Viking, Celtic, Maori, and Native Americans to name some more recent examples - have practiced tattoo and scarification as a rite of passage and a way of indicating membership, rank, and accomplishments to the culture who can "read" the markings.

I'm not saying I endorse Joe Schmo getting a Maori tribal tattoo 'cause it looks fierce. I just want to draw attention to the presence the modern Western judgments (generally derived from Judeo-Christian tradition) about aesthetics and how the flesh can be considered sacrosanct with or without markings, depending on the viewer.

Apr. 14 2008 08:16 AM
Patricia from Phoenix, AZ

I am 43 and have no tattoos. While I have no plans to ever get any at this point, I don't think that the origin of the image someone chooses for a tattoo really matters. I just believe that for myself, it would have to be an image/ symbol that held EXTREME significance, since it's permanent. I have many, many friends who have gotten multiple tattoos, and I strongly suspect that 95% of them will end up regretting their choices. personally, I'd rather have art hanging where I can see it.

Apr. 13 2008 10:11 PM
Jim from Flagstaff, AZ

I don't understand the rationale behind "permanent art". Tattoos are ugly and I am predisposed to judging people displaying them as immature or just lowlifes.

I especially don't understand why so many beautiful young women with their flawless skin get foolishly marked up for life. Tattoos on women are an absolute turnoff.

These will be the doctors, lawyers and captains of industry in the near future. Where is our culture going?

Apr. 13 2008 05:07 PM
Amelia from Providence

I have a tattoo of the Alexander Calder mobile that hangs in the Met on my lower back. Yes, it's a tramp stamp, though I might add that I had it done just before the cusp of their prevalence. Sigh.

I got it as a memento of my philosophy of life, and I put it at the base of my spine because the mobile itself looks spindly and without definition, but growing, a reflection of how I felt at that age.

The mobile has no specific meaning or reference to any object, so the tattoo has a property of mutability that allows it to take on whatever viewers impose on it. People have told me it looks like a tree, a fish skeleton, a flower, a firework explosion, a compass, a spider web.

I chose it because I've long admired Calder for his his technique and skill combining art and engineering, for his personal gruffness and obstinate humility, and for his vision in creating organic-looking works of art that Sartre and Einstein recognized as embodying science and existentialism. All the heady stuff of a college English major with a bent toward philosophy.

I decided to stop at two tattoos, but after hearing today's show, I think that if offered the opportunity, I would happily get a tattoo of an original work of art.

Apr. 13 2008 01:18 PM
Megan Kasten from Charlottesville, Va

When my son was 4, he and I went out at 4am to snuggle together in a sleeping bag on our front lawn and watch the Leonid meteor shower. We both loved the chilly quiet, and the feeling that this was a tremendous show being put on just for us. Months later, on Mother's Day, he drew me a picture of a meteor, which I took to a tattoo parlor and had rendered in the form of a tiny toe ring. That permanent version of my child's drawing is always a reminder of how dear that time was to me.

Apr. 12 2008 12:02 PM
Ann Holley from Bridgeport, CT

I am a sculptor and art teacher. I have 4 from different times in life (I was 16 the first time) even though I wouldn’t get the same thing now I am glad they are there. They allow me to go back in time and remember how I felt and what I thought of the world at that time. I teach also and I think that being able to transport my self back in time helps me relate to my students.. On having an artists work done…. I think it’s a great idea though some times it works out better if the artists work is the inspiration for the tattoo rather than a direct copy. I once had a boyfriend who’s first tattoo at 28 was derived from a Klimt pattern and it looked great. Thanks!

Apr. 12 2008 11:00 AM
Jonathan Conner from hamilton, nj

I am having my five year old son's artwork put on my shoulder later this month. as an illustrator myself i find his imagination and prolific output inspiring. my parents have a trunk full of drawings from when i was his age, but i want to carry his drawings with me everywhere i go.

Apr. 12 2008 09:30 AM
Laura from Gainesville

If Maxfield Parrish resurrected and paired up with Kore Flatmo, it would be enough to convince me to get a tattoo. I collect art for my own personal joy, not for resale. A reproduction of an artist's existing work has no appeal since it already exists and can be possessed by other means. An original piece, however, it seems contains something temporal, related to the process of creation that can be possessed no other way.

Apr. 12 2008 12:13 AM
Marty from Seattle

I am an artist but I do not like tattoos. First of all, there is no image in the world that I could live with on my body for the rest of my life. Secondly, I think the human body is beautiful in and of itself and doesn't need any permanent adornments. A tattoo breaks the natural lines of the body. They are a big turn off for me.

Apr. 11 2008 08:52 PM
Ben Goetting from Los Angeles

I have tattoos from paintings by Mark Ryden (3 in fact) , Camille Rose Garcia, and Jeff Soto. So yes, I would.

Apr. 11 2008 05:52 PM
paige from Greensboro, NC

This is an interesting story, but to be honest I don't see what the big deal is. Any tattoo you get (that wasn't directly copied from something else) is a work of art... by a tattoo artist. That's one of the best things about it, if you let them design for you, you have a tattoo that no one else has. That's the point! No self-respecting tattoo-aquirer goes in asking for an -exact- replica of a tattoo they saw. Just fyi, I do have tattoos and am speaking from experience! Thanks.

Apr. 11 2008 11:14 AM

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