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Tattoo. Tales from the Mediterranean

At the MUDEC in Milan, from 28th March, an exhibition to explore the art of the tattoo, from its origins to the present day.

An exhibition at the MUDEC in Milan to explore the art of the tattoo, from its origins to the present day, an ancient art that is present the world over, and that has taken on shifting meanings and functions over the course of the millennia. Tattoo. Tales from the Mediterranean.

The exhibition, curated by Luisa Gnecchi Ruscone, with the collaboration of Francesca Jurate Piacenti, takes the form of an itinerary that begins with the most remote origins of the tattoo, to arrive to the present day. Through the showing of original artifacts, reproductions, photographs and video, viewers will be able to explore more than 7000 years of history and discover the various forms and meanings of the tattoo in a range of cultures.

Ritratto di Emiliano Sanz Saez, Inizio XX secolo, Aristotipo, Courtesy Archivio storico del Museo di Antropologia criminale «Cesare Lombroso», Università di Torino

Tattoos have served many purposes; as a sign of belonging to a group, as an initiation rite, as a symbol of social status, as a protective amulet or as a form of body decoration.

The contemporary practice of tattooing is global, a mechanism characterised by the semiosphere, an anti-linguistic medium that has become a global trend. If we think in terms of values, “branding”, in European culture, is the application of a mark of shame, while the tattoo is its positive re-appropriation, a body that leans towards metamorphosis, recognition and transformation into “another”.

Rudolf Muller, Il marcatore di Santilli, Napoli, 1825 Stampa, Courtesy Museo Fercioni, Milano

The exhibition at the MUDEC explores all these aspects, showing how the tattoo is an art form full of meaning and of historical and anthropological value.

The exhibition is divided into a number of sections, each one dedicated to a specific period in history or geographic area. It begins with the first signs of tattooing in the Palaeolithic period, to then explore the cultures of Ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Mediterranean. The exhibition also looks at the various tattooing traditions in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, showing how this art form has spread around the globe, and has taken on forms and meanings that differ from culture to culture.

Jodi Hilton, Last Tattoed Woman of Kobane, Suruç, Şanlıurfa, Turchia 2014 Courtesy Jodi Hilton, Photo: Universitats-und Landes Bibliotek Sachsen-An Halt, open access initiative

An event that reveals the story and the symbols of an ancient and enchanting art. A journey that explores eras and crosses continents, allowing us to discover the world’s various cultures and to meditate on the role of the tattoo in society.

MUDEC, Museo delle Culture. From 28 March to 28 July 2024

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