New Tattoo Exhibit at Field Museum Tells Beautiful Tales

Talking to people who are tattooed opens up a treasure trove of personal stories. There are so many reasons people choose to ink their bodies, and even in cases of regret (or worse, ragret), so much can be learned. Tattooing is an ancient art, and yet still one that causes controversy and discrimination in the workplace.

It’s an art form, but so often we relegate it to seedy shops in darkened alleyways and don’t give it its due. Tattooing is over 5000 years old, and has been practiced since ancient days in every corner of the world. It’s served to mark one’s belonging as a part of something bigger just as much as it’s been a symbol of defiance, individuality or the sacred.


It’s this history, both good and bad, that The Field Museum of Natural History looks to explore in its newest special exhibit, Tattoo.  The exhibit, which debuted to the press last Tuesday and the public on Friday, explores tattooing’s significance in the ancient world and its relevance today, as well as looking at the technology as it progresses and exploring all of the different techniques and art styles that have come to be along the way.

This exhibit hails from the musée de quai Branly in Paris, and one of my favorite things about it is its art gallery feel. There’s plenty of information to be gleaned from the exhibit, to be sure, and it still keeps with the high standards of education the Field Museum holds, but it’s independently beautiful. Tattoo is full of stunning photography, fantastic ancient artifacts, and amazing tattoo work done on silicone figures throughout.


There’s also a fully functional tattoo shop inside the exhibit. This was an absolutely stunning reveal to everyone I attended with. We’d heard there might be live tattooing, but as far as anyone knew it would be a debut/one day attraction.  The Field Museum instead stunned everyone and went through the rigorous steps required by the health department to open their own independently gorgeous shop, complete with traditional brick and neon as well as an almost 360-degree view of the goings on, so that if you’re not one of the lucky ones who got one of 36 slots available to be tattooed by one of six amazing local tattoo artists, you can still see the art in action during the live tattooing timeslots on weekends throughout the exhibit’s run from October through April 30.

I highly recommend this exhibit, whether you’ve got ink or not. The exhibit, the ink and the artists all have fantastic stories to tell, and the art is absolutely breathtaking.  For more information, and for tickets, click this link.

Marielle Bokor
Marielle Bokor