Style / March 2016

Paint The Town | Tattoo London

Tattoo London celebrates the history and heritage of the UK tattoo scene with an exhibition at the Museum of London, featuring the top tattooists who have made home in the…

Four generations of tattoo artists; Lal Hardy at New Wave, Alex Binnie at Into You, Claudia de Sabe at Seven Doors and The Rake's dear friend, Mo Coppoletta from The Family Business have been commissioned to feature new artworks to compliment an insight into their otherwise mysterious painted world.

'Tattoo culture has been prevalent in the UK for centuries', as Mo Coppoletta confirms; 'London has always had a big tattoo aesthetic, it was present in London for more than 200 years.'

He's quite right. Beginning in 3300 BC, the oldest tattoo ever discovered was found on the frozen skin of Ötzi the Iceman (an early ancestor of the modern European man) has 57 different etchings including a cross and six straight lines. Inked men from the British Isles were noted in Julius Caesar's history of the Gallic wars in 54 BC, but by 900 AD tattoos were becoming less common in burgeoning Christian Europe and the UK for fear of their Pagan associations.

From the 1500's, British explorers and adventurers brought back exotic natives who were covered from head to toe in body art, leading to the nickname of 'painted people' up until 1776 when Captain James Cook introduced the word 'tattoo' to the English language, having returned from Polynesia with tales of the tattooed savages he met on his travels. It derives from the Tahitian word 'tatau' translated as 'open wound'. Lovely.

Although tattoos originated from other cultures, the fascination for body art filtered into the quaysides of the Thames. 'It's just natural for London to associated with this culture, other cities that I can think of would be perhaps places like Japan where it's seen differently, as it's a big part of the popular culture.' Says Mo Coppoletta, 'London has always been the capital of western tattooing due to the explorative nature and curiosity of British officers and adventurers bringing them home.'

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Sufiyeh Hadian

Sybarite: a person who is self-indulgent in their fondness for sensuous luxury. Synonyms: hedonist, sensualist, voluptuary, libertine, pleasure seeker, playboy, epicure, glutton, gourmand, gastronome...