|Photo credit: Paolo Foschini
Over the course of 35 hours, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye — famous for, among other things, tattooing live pigs and just generally pissing people off — tattooed a more-than-decent image of the Virgin Mary on the back of Tim Steiner of Zurich. The tattoo was part of a larger plan, however:
The tattoo on Tim Steiner’s back was bought last week by a German art collector for €150,000 (SFr240,000) in a deal coordinated by the Zurich gallery De Pury & Luxembourg.
The gallery, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye and 32-year-old Steiner all took a cut of the money.
In return Steiner is required to exhibit the work three times a year in public and private shows, the first of which will be the Asia Pacific Contemporary Art Fair in Shanghai next week.
The sale agreement extends further, stating that after Steiner’s death the tattoo and its skin canvas will revert to the new owner, contemporary art collector Rik Reinking.
The content and execution of the tattoo itself is largely irrelevant — indeed, the fact that it was conceived as a commodity to be profited off of was an “integral part of the work itself.” It’s an interesting concept, and while there’s a certain forward momentum in tattoo work being seen in the context of fine art, this seems to be more about making a statement about what could potentially be valued as art — the performance aspect rather than a showcase of the art itself. It’s not a bad tattoo by any means, but given the fact that it was dreamt up with profit in mind with a secondary focus on what was produced, is it all that much more than a high-brow version of Brent Moffatt’s Golden Palace advertisement?