The wave of mainstream interest in tattoos and tattoo art that has arisen in the last decade or so shows no sign of abating just yet. Here in São Paulo, in certain social circles it seems almost compulsory to sport a tat or two. But there’s nothing new in Heaven or on Earth, and tattoos, with their millennial history, have been around in one form or another for thousands of years, including in ancient Egypt, where the practice was strictly restricted to women. In Brazil, the Tupiniquim was and still is one of the many indigenous tribes renowned for their colourful creations.
A new exhibition at Galeria Olido, ‘Na Pele: grupos que comunicam e se identificam pela tatuagem’ (‘In the skin: groups that communicate and identify themselves through tattoos’), looks at body art starting with its indigenous roots, right through to contemporary tattoo culture around the world, and here in Brazil. Photos, tattoo equipment and a documentary film all form part of the exhibition, curated by Ricardo Vidal of Feel Filmes e Produções and Paulo Tattoo, tattoo-artist-to-the-stars and owner of Soul Tattoo Art & Café, on Rua Oscar Freire.
Brazil's first tattoo machine
Discover how the modern tattoo trade, applied using electric tattoo machines, made its way to Brazil with the Danish tattooist ‘Lucky’ Gregersen. He brought the country’s first electric tattoo machine when he docked at Santos in 1959, where he then settled. He had a ready-made clientele in the port city: sailors. A natural artist, Lucky inherited the tattooing gift from his father, Jens Gregersen, who even tattooed the king of Denmark, King Frederick IX.
The exhibition is set out in chronological order, starting with paintings of tattooed Tupiniquim people. As you reach the contemporary part, look out for the new documentary O Brasil Tatuado (Tattooed Brazil), which will be screened throughout the exhibition’s run. Directed by Sebastião Braga, the film features testimonies by renowned Brazilian tattoo artists like ‘Markone’ Tattoograff, ‘Polacco’ Elcio Sespede, and Maurício Teodoro.
A series of talks will also be taking place, including with the exhibition curator and tattoo artist Paulo Tattoo. A pioneer in his approach to tattooing, he aims to turn on its head the notion that getting a tattoo is a thoughtless, impulsive, or dare we say, grungy act.
Should you want to make your own mark at the exhibition, go ahead and create your own design on one of the many mannequins. Photographs of the best will then be incorporated into the display.