If art’s purpose is to challenge viewers, to make a statement or alter one’s perceptions, then can’t a tattoo art be considered fine art, too?

Like most hotly debated issues, the answer is subjective, and changes depending on who you’re talking to.

TATTOO ART CHECKLIST

  • People with tattoo art act in a similar way with collectors in that they collect works from their favourite artists.
  • Tattoos are arguably more pure than fine art in that it has no secondary market.
  • However, on that note there is no investment value in having a work done by a high profile tattoo artist.
  • There are also art exhibitions like "Tattooed New York".

Curating the show was the push Panaite needed to finally get his own ink, and about a month into the show's preparation Panaite received his first tattoo: a design featuring flowers and birds, in memory of his mother.

This past New Year's Eve, he inked his second-- the date and location of his American naturalisation ceremony.

If the creator or receiver of the tattoo sees it as art, then that's what it is.

Panaite recently curated "Tattooed New York," a new exhibition that examines the rise of tattoo art culture in New York City from its beginnings on the Bowery in the '20s and '30s to today.

What makes a tattoo art is another question altogether.

According to Levy, it's when "it loses the embellishment of the trend and aesthetics, and returns to a very basic idea of what a tattoo should be."

As the stigma surrounding tattoos fades (a study shows that 1/5 American adults has one), and artists experiment with the medium, tattoo lovers are approaching their marks like fine art.

Collecting tattoos on their skin from a variety of artists that they follow, much in the same way that a collector would amass canvases and sculptures by the artists they love.

Some collectors are even collecting human skin.

"As a tattoo artist, the role of the craftsman is interlaced with the role of the artist," says Levy.

That might be why Levy chooses to create his tattoos with the stick-and-poke method he picked up in Nepal, for which the artist attaches a needle to a chopstick and pushes the ink into the skin by hand.

Tattoos have gone through trends and movements, just as any other art form has.

Kat Von D tattoo art

Kat Von D Tatoo Art Celebrity

Multi-disciplinary artist Bruno Levy sees tattooing as one of the purest art forms, untainted by the conventions of the modern art world, or by money.

"It's a very powerful visual language," he says, noting that the art form has no secondary market, nor collectors who want to store your work in a basement or flip it when they decide it doesn't match the couch.

Creating a tattoo art also poses many of the same questions that creating a work of art or an exhibition does.

And just as the invention of new art forms is often accompanied by new vocabularies to talk about them, tattooing has its own language, with terms like "flash" and "dot work" taking on new meaning.

Tattooing is an art that walks around in the world with someone for as long as they live.

And just as the invention of new art forms is often accompanied by new vocabularies to talk about them, tattooing has its own language, with terms like "flash" and "dot work" taking on new meaning.

Tattoo artists often rise up in the underground, however, rather than through traditional pipelines like galleries or schools.

Artists apprentice in shops and work to hone their craft, developing skills in linework and shading.

If art's purpose is to challenge viewers-- to make a statement or alter one's perceptions - then can't a tattoo be considered art, too?

Like most hotly debated issues, the answer is subjective, and changes depending on who you're talking to.

Creating a tattoo also poses many of the same questions that creating a work of art or an exhibition does.

How does the placement of this sculpture change its relationship to space? How does the placement of this rose on the hand, rather than the torso, change its relationship to the body and (possibly) other surrounding tattoos?

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