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Tattoo: British Tattoo Art at Time & Tide, Great Yarmouth

Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed offers a ground-breaking and comprehensive history of British tattooing featuring cutting edge designers, leading academics and private collectors. With over 400 items on display, this is the largest gathering of original tattoo artworks, photographs and historic objects ever assembled in the UK.

The exhibition, which has been curated by The National Maritime Museum Cornwall, tells a story that challenges long-standing myths and preconceptions about tattooing – in terms of class, gender and age – whilst also giving a voice to, and celebrating, the astonishingly rich heritage of tattooing as an art form in the UK.


The exhibition is open to the public from 19 October 2019 to 8 March 2020.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Partnerships said: “Norfolk Museums Service has a distinguished track record of bringing world class art to the region. Time and Tide is the only venue in East Anglia to be hosting this intriguing exhibition and we are proud to bring it to Norfolk. With over 400 items on display, it is the biggest and most ambitious show to be held at the museum since it opened in 2004.

“Hosting an exhibition about tattoos in Great Yarmouth – a town with such a rich maritime heritage – is a delightful link. However, visitors to this fascinating and wide-ranging show will soon discover tattooing is not just for sailors!”


The exhibition showcases the work of leading tattoo artists from George Burchett, via the Bristol Tattoo Club, to Alex Binnie and Lal Hardy. It also includes items from three of the most important private collections of tattoo material in Britain. These collections belong to Willie Robinson, Jimmy Skuse, and Paul ‘Rambo’ Ramsbottom and are not normally on public display.

Tattoo also delves into previously unseen private archives revealing hidden histories, including the incredible real story of Britain’s pioneering female tattoo artist, Jessie Knight.

An innovative installation – the 100 Hands Project – creates a ‘sculptural map’ of British tattoo art today. Curated by Alice Snape of Things and Ink magazine, it is based around one hundred silicone arms, each tattooed with an original design by 100 leading tattoo artists, working in the UK today – including five artists from East Anglia.


Also on show are three contemporary art commissions from three tattoo artists working in three very different tattoo traditions. Tihoti Faara Barff’s work celebrates the modern revival of Tahitian tattooing; Matt Houston’s commission is a heroic celebration of the sailor tattoo; and Aimée Cornwell, a second-generation artist and rising star in the tattoo world, illustrates how tattooing is breaking down different artistic boundaries with her own form of fantasia.

It is estimated that about one in five of the UK population is tattooed and this figure rises to one in three for young adults. Yet, whilst the visibility of tattooing in contemporary culture may feel like something new, tattoos and tattoo art have always held a significant place in Britain’s history and historical imagination. The exhibition explores this history in depth showing how people from all areas of society have been tattooed: from ruffians to royalty, sailors to socialites and pilgrims to punks.


Guest curator, Dr Matt Lodder, lecturer in Contemporary Art History and Director of American Studies at the University of Essex said: “Whilst British and global museums have had a long-standing interest in Western tattooing, none have ever managed to fully combine serious academic research with access to the vast but hidden troves of tattoo ephemera kept closely guarded in private collections.

“In this exhibition, we have finally been able to match the most current and cutting-edge research on British tattoo history – which challenges all the most deeply-held perceptions about the practice, its origins, its extent, and its reception – with unparalleled access to the true custodians of tattooing’s history: the artists and their families who have cared for these objects and their stories over decades. Tattooing is a magical, romantic, exciting and often misunderstood art-form, and we hope that our exhibition will communicate some of that magic to visitors.”

Time & Tide Museum